President Barack Obama’s proposed $50 billion transportation spending program would boost jobs in the construction, manufacturing and retail industries and help bolster a struggling economy, a new administration report says.
The study by the Treasury Department and White House Council of Economic Advisers said that about 90 percent of the new jobs in those three segments of the economy would fall in middle-class range. The construction industry, where unemployment exceeds 17 percent, would benefit the most with 61 percent of the jobs created. The unemployment rate is 9.6 percent for the nation as a whole.
Obama is under pressure to strengthen the recovery with the approach of the Nov. 2 congressional elections that will determine control of Congress and influence his agenda for the second half of his presidency. Republicans would need a net gain of 39 House seats and 10 Senate seats to take control.
Obama will use the study today as he meets with cabinet secretaries, governors and mayors at the White House to rally support for pumping additional federal money into American infrastructure. The study reinforces his initial proposal Sept. 6 in Milwaukee.
“Instead of sitting still, we should invest in rebuilding America’s roads and railways and runways,” Obama said Oct. 8, after the government issued a jobs report showing private employers added 64,000 jobs in September, fewer than economists had forecast.
“Our infrastructure is falling far behind what the rest of the world is doing, and upgrading it is vital to our economy and our future competitiveness,” he said. The president plans a public statement after the meeting.
Governors Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Jack Markell of Delaware are scheduled to attend the meeting, along with the mayors of Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Columbus, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Charleston, South Carolina, among others.
No new projects will be announced today, and the White House isn’t insisting that lawmakers enact the program as part of a lame-duck Congress after the elections, said officials who briefed reporters anonymously in a telephone conference call yesterday so they wouldn’t pre-empt the president’s remarks. Rather, they said, the program is meant to bolster political support next year as a White House priority.
The study also said a $50 billion program now would provide a larger return on investment because construction costs are low, due to unused capacity.
Today’s meeting is scheduled to include former Transportation Secretaries Sam Skinner and Norman Mineta. They said in a separate report last week that the U.S. needs to spend between $134 billion and $194 billion just to meet current transportation repair needs.
Administration officials said that’s more than the federal government can provide. They said the president’s proposal of $50 billion represents the first portion of a six-year transportation reauthorization program that’s being discussed with Congress.
The total funding for the six-year package, which includes 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of rail improvements and reconstruction of 150 miles of runways, hasn’t been decided, they said.
The plan also calls for creation of a National Infrastructure Bank, designed to lure private investment for specific projects.
The $50 billion proposal is in addition to the $48 billion distributed for public works projects in the two-year $814 billion stimulus program that ends on Dec. 31.
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