NSSGA CHAIRMAN TESTIFIES BEFORES HOUSE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE
Print this Article | Send to Colleague
NSSGA Chairman Bill Schneider, president and CEO of Knife River Corp., testified July 27 before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the status of the stimulus and impacts on the aggregates industry. Schneider told the committee that since passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act his company has been awarded nearly $200 million in stimulus projects throughout its 17-state operation. Further, he said, the company’s current backlog is 20 percent stimulus funded. He cautioned, however, that the industry is "headed back to square one and wondering what our future holds." He said that without a passage of a six-year highway bill construction job losses will skyrocket on an industry sector that already has an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent. Schneider concluded his statement by saying, "Let’s get REAL. Now more than ever, there is a need for real jobs meeting real needs and providing American taxpayers real value."
Schneider testified on a panel with other transportation industry representatives at the 20th stimulus oversight hearing held by committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.). The committee heard first from DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. LaHood recounted the achievements of the stimulus telling the committee that 11,250 projects had been completed by this summer. He said that 30,000 more road miles will be improved this summer.
Highways and Transit Subcommittee chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) charged that Congress had seen no advocacy from the White House on the need for a surface transportation authorization bill. Further he contended that tolling, public private partnerships and an Infrastructure Bank are not going to generate the revenues necessary to fund the system. He said that we need to look at increasing the highway user fee.
LaHood responded that there are those at the White House, including the president, who "get it." He said that the administration supports the lion’s share of what is in the Oberstar reauthorization bill and that there is no disagreement about needs, but he ruled out a user fee increase.
Senior committee Republican John Mica (Fla.) said that a more conservative Congress will not look favorably on a user fee increase and other funding sources must be reviewed. He urged support for expediting project delivery and suggested consideration of a $250 billion National Infrastructure Bank.
When panel participants were queried about whether they would have supported the stimulus if they were members of Congress, all responded in the affirmative. Several committee members urged them to offer support to those members of Congress who voted for the stimulus and are being targeted at home for their vote on the legislation.
Oberstar is expected to continue oversight hearings on the stimulus into the future. He said that he will continue to push for a well-funded, multi-year highway authorization bill and reiterated his belief that such a bill is a jobs bill that will put Americans back to work, which will increase tax revenues to the government and at the same time create long-term assets for the country.
To read Schneider’s testimony, please click here.