Earlier this year, AED members were in Chicago for the 2020 AED Summit & CONDEX, preparing for a successful year and unaware of the global pandemic that would completely upend the world as we knew it.
While much has changed since January, AED’s laser focus on enacting robust, long-term infrastructure legislation has remained constant. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was long overdue for our leaders in Washington to provide substantial, long-term surface transportation investments to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. However, it became necessary for the construction equipment industry’s survival with the proliferation of shutdown orders across the country.
The impact of closing large parts of the economy for an extended period was predictable. People consume less when economic activity ceases when financial uncertainty permeates, and when citizens are ordered to stay home. The detrimental impact on tax revenues is exacerbated when governments are spending significantly more to address a public health crisis. And, essential for the construction sector, people also stopped driving, resulting in a significant hit to gas tax revenues.
As the pandemic’s impact reached crossed the country, AED’s top priority was ensuring that equipment distributors, manufacturers and contractors were deemed essential businesses and could remain open. The association’s focus quickly turned to policies to pull the economy out of the inevitable downturn caused by COVID-19, such as by urging governors to double down on construction project funding despite revenue shortfalls and urging Congress to enact long-term, substantial investments to rebuild America’s deteriorating infrastructure.
In early July, the House approved a $1.5 trillion package authorizing funding and setting forth federal policies related to roads, bridges, transit systems, schools, housing, broadband, water systems, airports, and other infrastructure. The Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2) also included a five-year surface transportation reauthorization. Although H.R. 2 was drafted and passed in a partisan manner – a diversion from the bipartisan tradition of past infrastructure bills – the House did at least approve moving the process forward.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Trump administration declared H.R. 2 dead on arrival. Indeed, McConnell has been consistently clear that the Senate won’t consider a broad infrastructure package, but would focus on the multiyear surface transportation reauthorization with the FAST Act’s pending expiration on Sept. 30. AED’s message to McConnell and his colleagues is evident. The association certainly supports trillions of dollars in infrastructure investment, but highway program reauthorization is the immediate priority, with the FAST Act ending and the significant uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last summer, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA), a bipartisan five-year, $287 billion surface transportation reauthorization proposal. The Senate must consider and support the ATIA to facilitate conference negotiations with the House on the Moving Forward Act.
With Sept. 30 rapidly approaching and the 2020 elections in sight, the window to pass legislation is closing. However, as Congress’s response to COVID-19 demonstrated, it can do so quickly when it needs to approve a bill, regardless of size or scope. AED believes an infrastructure bill, including surface transportation reauthorization legislation, is a far easier lift than the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) or the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and is equally vital to ensuring the United States emerges stronger than ever.
To move infrastructure legislation across the finish line and get the message out that inaction is inexcusable, AED launched both a social media effort and a grassroots campaign.
The social media campaign was coordinated by the Highway Materials Group (HMG) to build public support on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for immediate action on federal highway infrastructure investments, using #HighwaysDriveAmerica. AED is an active member of HMG, which also includes the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the Portland Cement Association, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and other allied organizations.
AED also commenced an unprecedented grassroots campaign to tell the U.S. Senate that the economy, our industry and the American people demand infrastructure investments to put people back to work, spur economic growth and ensure the country’s future international competitiveness.
Your U.S. senators must hear directly from you, your employees, your customers and your industry colleagues. As business owners and executives and, most importantly, as constituents, your voice matters and you can make a difference. The association has made it as easy as possible to weigh in.
There’s too much at stake not to take a few minutes to participate. With collective action we’ll get closer to the goal of rebuilding America and putting the United States on a path toward economic growth and job creation for years to come.
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