There has been a lot of talk lately about the effectiveness of President Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill which was passed by Congress earlier this year. The spending bill, which I voted against, included only $27 billion for highway and transportation projects -- proven job creators -- and was instead weighed down by billions in spending that was not stimulative and has not provided the jump-start our economy so desperately needs.
Across the country, Americans are still hurting. In our home state of Ohio, where unemployment currently stands at 11.2 percent, people are asking "Where are the jobs?"
Folks should know that some of their elected leaders are actively joining the Obama Administration in its quest to blow yet another golden opportunity when it comes to creating jobs and stimulating the economy: they are refusing to support a robust new highway bill.
As your senior United States Senator and Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, I have long said that a multi-year transportation bill would be a real stimulus to the economy. According to the Department of Transportation, every $1 billion spent on transportation creates 47,500 jobs. The bill would create real jobs at a time when construction unemployment is twice the national average, and spur the purchase of steel, concrete and other materials needed for construction projects. It would be the largest job-creation bill for the construction industry that the U.S. Congress could undertake.
A few weeks ago I held a news conference with U.S. Representative James L. Oberstar (MN-8), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, on why a robust transportation bill is the key to restoring our nation's crumbling infrastructure and putting Americans back to work. We discussed our opposition to the 18-month extension of the already inadequate 2005 highway bill being proposed by the Obama Administration and Nancy Pelosi, and our plans for drafting the next the job-creating highway bill.The day after our news conference, I offered an amendment at an Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee business meeting to shorten the length of the proposed extension to 12 months and keep the pressure on Congress to invest in our nation's roads and bridges, meet America's surface transportation needs, and create thousands of jobs. Those few months could make the world of difference when it comes to job creation, yet the amendment failed by a vote of 8 to 11.My proposal for a 12-month extension is a reasonable compromise -- the House is opposed to any type of extension. They understand the urgency of the situation we face.
I also know that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) agrees, and has said transportation investments are one of the few areas where federal spending is guaranteed to yield near-term economic gains. "I learned 27 years ago when I came to the House that there are two ways to really stimulate the economy quickly," he said. "One is with homebuilding. The other is with highway spending, and that includes bridges, roads and dams." I hope Sen. Reid will remember that lesson as we move forward on a strong multi-year transportation infrastructure bill.
A robust new highway bill is a three-fer: good for jobs -- giving confidence and certainty to an industry that is struggling; good for our competitive position in the global marketplace; and good for our environment - transportation contributes almost 30 percent to greenhouse gas emissions.
I cannot understand how America's elected leaders can ignore these facts at a time when unemployment continues to grow. We should invest stimulus funds in shovel-ready transportation projects, rebuild our vital transportation infrastructure, and cultivate construction jobs for our workers. I want to ensure you that I will continue to do everything in my power to stop Congress from turning a blind-eye to unemployed Americans by failing to reauthorize the highway bill in a timely fashion. We must put Americans back to work.