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Jobs Bonds ‘a great victory’ for workers, state

OLYMPIA (April 11) — With strong bipartisan support, the Washington State Legislature today passed the Infrastructure Jobs Bonds sought by a labor-business coalition to create some 20,000 jobs throughout the state. Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) President Jeff Johnson called it “a great victory for the working men and women of our state, especially those in the construction industry who have suffered from such high unemployment since the beginning of the recession.”

The Jobs Bonds legislation included SB 5127 (authorizing bonds), which passed the Senate 44-2 and the House 80-18, and SB 6074 (supplemental capital budget), which passed 44-1 and 85-13. The bills have been delivered to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign them into law.

While advocates celebrated the legislation’s passage, they also expressed frustration that the popular legislation was held hostage by Senate Republicans and a handful of conservative Democratic Senators until the final minutes of the extended special session as leverage to force votes on unrelated bills.

WSLC President Jeff Johnson issued the following statement today:

The Legislature’s passage of the $1 billion Jobs Bonds legislation is a great victory for the working men and women in our state, especially those in the construction industry who have suffered from such high unemployment since the beginning of the recession. The 20,000 jobs will certainly be a welcome relief to both the labor and business communities who worked hard to get this bill passed.

On behalf of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, I want to thank Speaker Frank Chopp, Representative Hans Dunshee and Senator Derek Kilmer for their advocacy of the jobs bonding legislation. Without their support, it would not have happened. I also want to thank Senator Linda Evans Parlette and Representative Judy Warnick for their work and support of the jobs bill.

That said, it is frustrating that this much-needed economic boost – which was prepared for a vote in late January and eventually passed with strong bipartisan majorities in both houses – was held hostage all session by Senate Republican leaders and Democratic Sens. Jim Kastama, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon. It is a shame that much of the current construction season was wasted while political gamesmanship over unrelated legislation took priority over jobs and our state economy. Senator Mike Hewitt and the Republican team turned a non-partisan issue — jobs — into a political football and cut the package in half.

The WSLC, the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, the Associated General Contractors, and others have worked since last December to pass the Jobs Bonds legislation as quickly as possible to boost struggling communities. The coalition argued that now is the time to front-load planned infrastructure projects, particularly those that will stimulate private sector job growth, to take advantage of low interest rates and get the most bang for taxpayers’ bucks.

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