A few dozen construction workers gathered today near a bridge spanning Interstate 80 in Des Moines to show their support for President Obama’s American Jobs Act.
Bill Gerhard is president of the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council.
“We could be on almost any bridge in Iowa because there are 8,900 of them that are deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete,” Gerhard told reporters.
The American Jobs Act, among other things, would invest $50 billion in projects to rebuild roads, bridges and other transit systems around the country. Earl Agan, president of the Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council, says the nearly $500 million directed toward Iowa would provide work for 6,700 construction employees.
“Our grandfathers build these highways and bridges and they’re falling apart. Just let us rebuild them, let us finish the work our grandfathers did,” Agan said. Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat, serves on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
“If we want our economy to pick up, we’ve got to get people back to work. It’s simple. And here’s something we have to do anyway. It has to be done. We have to take care of our infrastructure,” Boswell said. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also spoke at today’s press conference. He said Iowa’s bridges are ranked third worst in the country.
“One out of every five bridges in this state are structurally deficient and are in need of repair. That’s twice the national average,” Vilsack said. Republicans oppose the President’s jobs bill and it’s unlikely to come up for a vote in the GOP-controlled House. Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, said Congress can’t afford to wait until after next year’s election to take action.
“This isn’t about election year, this is about putting Americans back to work,” Vilsack said. “We ought to put the national interest above political and party interest at this point. The President put this plan together and he took ideas from Democrats and Republicans. This has always been bipartisan.”
Vilsack said the package also includes payroll tax cuts, an extension of jobless benefits to help the unemployed, new tax credits for businesses that hire the longterm unemployed and additional money to help save and create jobs for teachers and first responders such as firemen.