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Labor and business urge: Frontload JOBS!

Here is today’s edition of the weekly Legislative Update the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO (PDF version):

Start 2012 session with positive, proactive Infrastructure Jobs Bond

OLYMPIA (Jan. 10) — As the 2012 legislative session begins, labor and business advocates are continuing their unprecedented partnership urging the Washington State Legislature to put jobs first.

The Washington State Labor Council, the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, the Associated General Contractors, and others supporting investment in our state economy are urging passage of a $2 billion Infrastructure Jobs Bond as quickly as possible to boost struggling communities. The business-labor coalition is hoping to build on the positive momentum created during December’s special session on this legislation.

This is state legislators’ opportunity to make necessary investments at a smart time and to create tens of thousands of jobs right now. The Infrastructure Jobs Bond would issue capital construction bonds — just as the state does for transportation projects — to be repaid by streams of money already dedicated to the capital budget, such as toxics taxes and public works trust funds. That money is earmarked for capital projects anyway.

This would frontload those investments now when our state is desperate for jobs. It will create 15,000 desperately needed construction jobs, plus another 15,000 induced jobs in other sectors like retail, architecture and engineering, administrative, arts, recreation, nursing and more. For every $1 we invest in new construction, we generate an additional $1.97 in statewide economic activity. That means a $2 billion would generate up to $3.97 billion in statewide economic activity.

Here’s why we need our legislators to act NOW:

The legislation has no negative impact on the General Fund budget. In fact, it will bring in an estimated $35 million in revenue in new sales tax revenue this biennium and more than $70 million in the next biennium. This will help resolve our state budget challenges, not make them worse.

Now is the time to get the most bang for taxpayers’ bucks. Frontloading capital spending to the 2012 construction season will save the state money. It’s a buyer’s market as contractors are bidding low amid intense competition for work and lower costs for materials and interest. These projects will cost more later.

By passing it quickly, this work can begin in time for this construction season. If the Legislature waits until the end of the session — and it’s anybody’s guess when that will be given the budget challenge that lies ahead — the coming warm weather construction season will be lost. Passing it as quickly as possible will create these jobs NOW when they are needed.

This work can promote economic development. Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) and other key legislators who support the bill want to target projects that promote economic development. Examples could include the construction of training facilities that enhance our competitive advantages in aerospace and other sectors, and college research facilities that could prompt private-sector spinoffs.

Our construction industry is in crisis

There are signs of hope on Washington State’s economic horizon. The Machinists union and The Boeing Co. have reached an agreement that will secure existing and additional aerospace jobs in Washington. Plus, the most recent numbers of job growth — at both the state and national levels — have taken a turn for the positive.

However, the two employment sectors that are not adding jobs are government and construction. As state legislators prepare yet another bad-news budget that will add to the thousands of public-sector jobs lost at both the state and local government levels, the Infrastructure Jobs Bond is lawmakers’ opportunity to be proactive about creating desperately needed jobs in the beleaguered construction industry.

Building trades are suffering unemployment levels from 20% to as high as 60%, depending on the trade and region of the state. Many contractors are struggling to survive. David Myers, Executive Secretary of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, reports that this lack of work is causing long-term damage to the industry as experienced workers in the trades are leaving the state and the industry in search of other job opportunities. It takes up to five years to train journey-level workers to replace them. The jobs bill will not only put these skilled workers back to work, it will keep them in Washington where we need them.

As AGC Government Affairs Director Rick Slunaker points out, these wouldn’t just be “show jobs for the sake of putting people to work… these are projects we are supposed to be doing anyway, that are on to-do lists already.”

“There is no doubt that this is a tough time to be a state legislator,” said Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council. “But the Infrastructure Jobs Bond is an opportunity for our leaders to be proactive in a time of crisis instead of just trying to mitigate the harm. As we weigh the damage that would be done by more cuts to schools, colleges, public safety, health care, and other essential services, surely this is a time for bold positive action.”

Supporters of the Infrastructure Jobs Bond will be holding a press conference soon featuring construction workers, contractors, small business owners, veterans, service workers, and others explaining why they support the legislation.

Some important hearings

Some important hearings/work sessions this week:

HOUSE LABOR & WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT — Tuesday at noon, updates on the status of unemployment insurance benefit extensions and the “structured settlements” in workers’ compensation. Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., a work session on income inequality. Friday at 8 a.m., a report on the aerospace loan program plus HB 2156 regarding aerospace workforce training.

HOUSE HEALTH CARE & WELLNESS — Wednesday at 8 a.m., work session on implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

SENATE LABOR, COMMERCE & CONSUMER PROTECTION — Thursday at 10 a.m., work session on the underground economy.

Stay tuned at The Stand!

This Legislative Update newsletter will be published every Tuesday during the 2012 session, outlining the legislative agenda of the Washington State Labor Council and its affiliated unions. In addition, stay apprised of developments in Olympia at The Stand — — Your Internet Newsstand in Washington State. It features daily updates on legislative action, plus all other news affecting working families.

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