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Calling for action on infrastructure in 2021 (Part 2)

By |  August 6, 2021
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Schurco Slurry’s Will Pierce on an infrastructure bill: “Everybody sees the need for it, and everyone in this room would benefit from it. But I think the driving point is every American would benefit from it.” Photo: PamElla Lee Photography

The following transcript was edited from a concurrent Pit & Quarry Roundtable & Conference discussion.

WILL PIERCE (SCHURCO SLURRY): I’ll share an anecdote. This happened recently in Jacksonville, Florida – my hometown, where our

headquarters and manufacturing is. The widest and longest bridge in Jacksonville had a section lift recently. Nobody was injured or killed. The DOT (Department of Transportation) was able to come in and put a big metal plate over it. But there’s this big scab on this giant bridge. It’s a major artery for the state – not just for people, but moving materials and goods that are important for the economy of the state. There are examples like this all over the country. We have to do something. We’re allowing these things to unravel. Our politicians have to see it. I feel like at a certain point we’re approaching an inevitability of ‘something’s going to happen.’ I think we’re getting there with the [infrastructure] bill. Everybody sees the need for it, and everyone in this room would benefit from it. But I think the driving point is every American would benefit from it.

ALEX KANARIS (VDG): What bothers me about the $2.3 trillion [bill] is that the money needed to spend on bridges, airports and roads is only a small portion of the overall budget. Why is it we cannot have just a standalone bill without putting all of the social programs in it, along with academic and college infrastructure? That’s one of my concerns.

Headshot: Alex Kanaris, Van der Graaf

Kanaris

AHMED HELMY (TANDEM PRODUCTS): I’d like to ask [NSSGA’s] Mike [Johnson] a question: What percent of that [bill] actually affects this group?

MICHAEL JOHNSON (NATIONAL STONE, SAND & GRAVEL ASSOCIATION): Let’s unpack that a little bit. What the president announced [March 31] in Pittsburgh was just a policy proposal. That was months ago now, and that was $2.25 trillion. Only a fraction – a tiny amount of that – was what we would consider traditional infrastructure spending. The majority of the bill was what we would call ‘soft’ or ‘human infrastructure,’ based on the vernacular in [Washington] D.C., right now.

What is currently being discussed in Congress is a bill focused more tightly on hard infrastructure. With the bill that you’re hearing discussions about that they’re going back and forth on at the White House is that the president’s come down to a request for $1.7 trillion with the Republicans. The Republicans have come up to $1 trillion. It is mostly focused on traditional infrastructure on the Republican side – more so than the White House. They’re still trying to get a few of the softer infrastructure items in.

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Johnson

Where I think we’re going to end up is about $1 trillion of what we would consider traditional infrastructure investment. I think that’s where both sides would come together. The debate right now is over two things. How much of that is new money? The president wants $1 trillion of new money, above baseline. Right now, the federal government spends about $400 to $600 billion on traditional infrastructure. That’s already baked into the budget. What the president wants is $1 trillion in addition to that. What the Republicans want is about $500 billion in addition to that. So that’s the delta. We’re really arguing right now over about $400 billion in terms of what they’re going to put in the bill and how much new money is going to be there.

The president does very much still want the corporate tax increase from 21 to probably about 25 percent to be part of this. Republicans are saying no way. They have come forward with a mix of user fees and debt financing to fund their bill.

I think what you’ll see is over the next few weeks is they’re going to come together somewhere in the middle on that. I don’t know that the votes are there to do a corporate tax increase, which means they’re going to go find additional funding, or do additional debt. But I do think that’s kind of the space we’re in right now – and it’s tightening.

DAVID CISZCZON (POLYDECK): So you are you saying that as far as what we – the people in this room – consider infrastructure (roads, bridges) that $1 trillion is what will be approved?

Headshot: Dave Ciszcczon

Ciszczon

JOHNSON: I do, yes. I was just talking [May 28]with [Rep.] Josh Gottheimer (D-New Jersey) and [Rep.] Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania). They are the co-chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus. They believe, based on the negotiations that they’re involved in, that that’s about the right number, and that a bill is going to focus on the kind of infrastructure that we believe it should focus on.

Look, broadband is going to be in there. But for me, if you’re going to start rebuilding and redoing roads, burying broadband cable at the same time is a good idea. The pandemic showed a need for that kind of infrastructure. It’s going to be in there along with roads, bridges, waterways, runways, ports, rail – all of that. The biggest portion will be highways, roads and bridges.

Click here for Part 1 of the infrastructure discussion that took place at the 2021 Pit & Quarry Roundtable & Conference.


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