Authors: Shamar Bibbins Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee unanimously voted to move its two-year transportation reauthorization bill, Map 21, out of committee and onto the Senate floor for a full vote. In a show of bipartisanship, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) aggressively worked with committee leaders, including Ranking Member Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Senator David Vitter (R-LA), and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) (who’s also Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee). Together, they produced a reform bill that consolidates over ninety programs into thirty, maintains current funding levels (plus the cost of inflation), saves 1.8 million jobs and creates up to an additional one million more.
Chairwoman Boxer and Senator Inhofe admitted that they did not agree on everything that’s in the bill - but agreed that there's a critical need to work together to put Americans to work restoring our roads and bridges and maintaining essential programs that ensure the safety and integrity of our highway and transit systems.
Green For All has been working in coalition with national partners -including labor-advocating to Senate and House leadership for the inclusion of a Construction Careers Demonstration Program into the next transportation reauthorization bill. At today’s hearing, Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) offered an amendment urging the committee to strongly consider the pilot program which helps disadvantaged and marginalized workers gain valuable construction training and employment in the transportation sector. The program encourages hiring of local workers so that communities are able to retain investment dollars, builds more opportunities for quality apprenticeship training, and funds the training needed to get new workers ready for long-term jobs and careers. Due to the unique nature of today’s hearing, there was no vote taken on the amendment, but Chairwoman Boxer indicated her initial support. While a step in the right direction, today’s hearing was the beginning of a long process. There is a $12 billion financing gap that must be raised to fund the bill. In addition, three other committees - Senate Banking, Commerce and Finance – also have jurisdiction over the bill and must consider it separately. It’s likely that each committee will have hearings on their respective pieces before the end of the year; the current transportation plan expires March 31, 2012. Infrastructure is the most basic element of a strong economy, and every Senator that spoke today acknowledged this. Many seemed frustrated by the fragile state of our roads, bridges and highways, offering that we can - and must - do better. Today was evidence that our leaders can put aside their differences and work to boost the economy and create jobs.Let’s hope they do the right thing - and do it quickly.