The Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill contains the most significant investment in our nation’s infrastructure in a generation and could yield key wins for the American people and the construction industry.
The effective modernization of our nation’s roads, bridges, water infrastructure, transit, railways, ports and other critical infrastructure projects—and the bipartisan bill’s ultimate success—will rely on three important factors.
First, what is the lens that the federal government uses to select critical projects? The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act gives broad funding flexibility to federal agencies through discretionary grant programs. With approximately $1.2 trillion in total funding, including $110 billion for roads, bridges and major projects, it is imperative that the selection of projects be based on the long-term value provided to hardworking taxpayers and the most positive impact on our nation’s transportation systems and economy.
This legislation could provide much-needed public investment and encourage public-private partnerships, which would boost private capital, GDP and employment throughout the country. However, our federal agencies facilitating these grant and funding programs must be strategic in their decisions and not get bogged down by politics.
Second, what are the new regulations and requirements for competing for and delivering construction contracts and will they optimize public investment in infrastructure? Taxpayers and industry stakeholders should not have to deal with costly waste and favoritism, but should instead expect policies supporting fair competition open to all of the construction industry that attract the best contractors and workforce to compete for contracts to modernize America’s infrastructure.
The administration’s rhetoric on supporting union-only jobs for federal work remains troubling for the 87% of the construction industry that chooses not to join a union. Workers who opt to work in a nonunion environment should not be excluded from participating in building infrastructure projects in their own communities.
Efforts to impose restrictive government-mandated project labor agreements and anti-competitive policies like the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and union-only workforce restrictions will raise costs, limit competition and result in job losses for the construction industry.
Third, what is the remaining legislative agenda for the president and Congress? While the IIJA was a bipartisan product, Democrats and the Biden administration continue to pursue divisive, partisan policies that would decimate our ability to modernize the nation’s infrastructure.
The congressional budget reconciliation process could devastate the construction industry with new tax hikes and burdensome labor requirements, making it tougher for many of our smaller contractors to continue their recovery from the devastating blows of the COVID-19 pandemic and meaningfully participate in infrastructure work.
Additionally, the Biden administration continues to pursue enactment of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would strip America’s workers of their rights, choices and freedoms in the workplace and make it nearly impossible for many small construction firms to continue operating.
Pursuing commonsense, bipartisan solutions is a better way to address the ongoing needs of our economy and America’s workers, ensuring robust competition from the best contractors and their workforce so taxpayers receive the best possible construction projects at the best possible price.
ABC and our members stand ready to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure system and deliver affordable, valuable, long-lasting modernization projects built through fair and open competition.
Michael Bellaman is president and CEO, Associated Builders and Contractors.