June 2010

Stimulus working, now we need a new authorization bill

by Frank Di Giacomo, Publisher

Just before this was written, a blog entry by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood flew around the Internet. It had a great note from Denny Howard, CEO of Gillig LLC, about how the stimulus has directly affected his employees and suppliers. Along with IMPulse

NC LLC President Jeff Wharton's similar testimony in a Congressional hearing, it shows how the stimulus created or saved jobs, not just in local government transit agencies but also the private sector.

Don't let critics lie about the stimulus

Because of the stimulus bill, which was passed by Congress and signed by the president in 2008, manufacturers, private sector transit suppliers, contractors and consultants have been able to retain their workforces and have even added workers. According to government and American Public Transportation Association sources, stimulus grants have allowed transit agencies to purchase more than 12,000 new vehicles, including buses, railcars and vans for rideshare and demand-response services. Economists all across the spectrum, including those who advised Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), say the stimulus worked the way it was designed.

In his blog post, LaHood continued, he decided to place a phone call to Howard to discuss his note further. Here's what he had to say: "I've been with Gillig for 32 years, so I've been watching the transit industry for decades. I meet with managers from transit agencies every day, and I have never seen the local funding in such desperate straits as today.

"A typical year industry-wide, agencies buy about 5,000 buses a year. With the stimulus, it's up to 7,000 for last year, this year and next year. But, if the stimulus hadn't come through, the market would have dropped 40 percent to 3,000 buses a year for last year, this year and, at least, through next year."

 Similar stories have been reported by other companies, in all sectors and modes.

Howard made another point worth repeating here: "And, there's a multiplier effect, too. Every base manufacturing job is worth five jobs down the supply chain."

I bring all this up, even though most of you have probably seen it already, for two reasons. First, we need to share this story every time we hear conservative commentators assert that this law didn't help the economy or create jobs "that were not government jobs." I have never understood why these same people say the New Deal didn't help get us out of the depression and that it took World War II - conveniently forgetting that war spending is more government spending! 

Authorization now, for the same reasons

The second reason is that our industry is coming to another economic cliff, unless Congress passes and the president signs an authorization bill. This economy is not even close to being out of the woods; a check of the unemployment rate greatly underlines this point.

For the same reasons that we needed the stimulus bill to pass, we need a new transportation authorization bill — and soon.

 


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