President Obama called on Congress to quickly approve “clean” extensions of critical transportation funding programs that are set to expire at two points in September, to avoid what could be huge disruptions to construction jobs.
With Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at his side, Obama in a Rose Garden statement said he will ask lawmakers when they return next week to quickly extend federal aviation programs that expire in mid-September, and the larger Highway Trust Fund and surface transportation programs that expire Sept. 30.
Congress in late July let Federal Aviation Administration funding lapse briefly, throwing 4,000 FAA employees out of work along with tens of thousands who were working on various FAA-funded airport projects. That example raised fears that a contentious Congress could do the same again with the FAA authority, and even with the surface programs.
Transportation industry officials and state government officers who use federal funds for much of their road and bridge projects have warned that any repeat of that delay in the surface programs could disrupt thousands of projects nationwide as the construction season winds down this fall.
Obama cited that example as well, saying a new disruption would be “unacceptable,” immediately laying off thousands of federal transportation employees while losing large amounts of transportation tax receipts that could not be reclaimed later.
The president has already said he will offer a set of new job-creating proposals after the Labor Day holiday on Sept. 5, and as Congress gets back to Washington after a month-long recess. He has repeatedly signaled it will include more transport infrastructure funding, plus extensions of some expiring tax breaks and other measures.
But first Congress needs to extend expiring programs, since lawmakers do not have enough time in the legislative calendar to hammer out major new transport legislation in September.
To highlight the importance of the transport programs, Obama was also joined by top labor and business officials -- Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO and a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and David Chavern, chief operating officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The White House said extending the tax collection and spending authority for federal transport programs would “protect nearly a million American jobs and highlight the opportunity we have to work in a bipartisan way to further invest in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure to strengthen our economy and create new jobs.”