WASHINGTON, D.C. — Recently released jobs numbers show thousands of workers in Tennessee and Georgia may have to hang up their tool belts unless Congress can find more money for road construction.
If the House-passed budget were signed into law, more than 24,000 construction workers in Tennessee and Georgia would lose their jobs, according the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Members of the GOP are especially torn on the topic of transportation funding. On the one hand, they were swept into the majority in the House after running on the promise to cut spending drastically. On the other hand, many Republicans are vocal supporters of federal infrastructure spending.
“I think it’s a matter of determining where our priorities are,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., who sits on the Transportation Committee. “We do desperately need to address the nation’s roads and bridges. It’s something that I think we can all agree on.”
A draft of the House transportation bill provides $230 billion for infrastructure over the next six years, a 30 percent budget cut, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
Democrats say the GOP spending blueprint doesn’t go far enough to address the nation’s antiquated roads and bridges.
The American Society of Civil Engineers reports major congestion on 43 percent of Tennessee’s urban highways and 41 percent of Georgia’s. It also notes mediocre or poor conditions on 17 percent of “major roads” in Tennessee.
Democrats are calling for serious investments to spur economic growth, especially when it comes to the nation’s aging infrastructure.
Many freshman Republicans say that sounds a lot like the $787 billion stimulus package passed by the Obama administration that they ran against.
“Washington has spent a lot of money, a lot of stimulus, bailouts, buyouts, ‘cash for clunkers,’ yet unemployment has remained high,” Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., said in the Capitol. “We’ve got to have certainty in the marketplace. The only way we can get certainty in the marketplace is to get the fiscal house in order in Washington.”
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, says he’s looking to raise more revenue for roads and bridges, but his party has come to no agreement yet.