OLYMPIA (Mar. 22) — Passage of state legislation to finance an enhanced capital budget through bonds should be a special-session priority because “this new infusion of capital and jobs will help repair the damage to household and state budgets brought on by the Great Recession,” according to a new report by the Economic Opportunity Institute.
The report issued Wednesday by the nonpartisan public policy organization notes that, although Washington has finally begun to add private-sector jobs, the construction sector has not begun to recover. Writes the EOI’s Marilyn Watkins:
(Since the recession began) Washington construction workers have lost 74,000 jobs — 35% of the industry. Most employment sectors added jobs in 2011, but construction did not. Many of the new jobs now being created — in aerospace manufacturing, health care, or restaurants — either require different skills and training or pay substantially less than construction trades.
The Legislature is currently in a 30-day special session, primarily to resolve differences on the state’s supplemental operating budget. But the Infrastructure Jobs Bonds legislation is on the short list of measures that Gov. Chris Gregoire and leaders of both parties have agreed to consider during the session.
The jobs bonds are supported by both business and labor interests, and by newspapers around the state. The Spokesman-Review wrote that it “should be a high priority,” The (Everett) Herald calls it a “smart plan for now and the future,” and The (Tacoma) News Tribune says it is “ingenuous job creation in hard times.”
Although bipartisan negotiations have resulted in project lists, the legislation has yet to be voted upon, apparently pending resolution of the operating budget.
“Construction suffered the largest employment losses of any industry, and since then job growth has flat-lined,” the Seattle Times reported last weekend. “In Olympia, a bipartisan jobs bill intended to aid the industry has been delayed by the Legislature’s budget battle.”
The new EOI report says that financing addition public infrastructure improvements “will put people back to work not only in construction, but across all sectors in all parts of the state” because of the multiplier affect created by adding tens of thousands of jobs. A nearly $1.4 billion investment proposed by both the state House and Senate Capital Budget Committees would increase the money flowing through Washington communities by $2 billion.
Also, financing infrastructure improvements through bonds right now when interest rates are low will save taxpayers money the projects, the EOI report notes.
Read the entire report here.
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