Thursday, July 10, 2014

Business coalition pushes Congress to replenish Highway Trust Fund and reauthorize Export-Import Bank

A broad coalition of U.S. business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, and labor unions such as the Laborers' International Union of North America are pressuring Congress this week to refinance the Highway Trust Fund before the fund dries up in August.

Strong resistance from conservative Republicans to replenishing the Highway Trust Fund and reauthorizing the federal Export-Import Bank has resulted in rare criticism from business leaders about how the Republican party's support for business has been undermined by Tea Party populist fervor.

Only 16 days remain on the House's legislative calendar before a five-week summer recess, and if nothing is done before that, federal highway funding will be cut 28 percent on Aug. 1, at the peak of the summer construction season.

The Export-Import Bank, which guarantees loans to foreign purchasers of American exports, will have to close by the end of September if Congress does not reauthorize it.

Business leaders are worried that inaction by Congress on these issues could endanger the nation's economic recovery.

Ned Monroe, the National Association of Manufacturers senior vice president for external relations, said business groups like his, the Building America's Future coalition, and labor unions will start a multi-layered advocacy effort this week.

The Laborers' International Union of North America started their efforts on the highways last week, including billboards and a school bus with part of a crumbled bridge on its hood. Advertising, lobbying in D.C. and pressure at home from construction firms and union members are to follow.

"Stopping the crisis facing the Highway Trust Fund will require Congress to take action," Jim Hoffman, president of Wisconsin-based Hoffman Construction Company, said Monday at an event in Madison, Wis.

Regarding the trust fund, the Chamber of Commerce and its Alliance for Transportation Mobility coalition have been applying pressure with daily commentaries and opinion pieces, compiling state-by-state statistics on infrastructure needs and the damage a shutdown could do. And for the first time in a while, business groups are looking for help from Democrats.

"We can't be reliant on just one political party," Monroe said.

For more of The New York Times story:

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