EPI Calls for Raising Gas Tax to Fund Infrastructure Improvements

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

            WASHINGTON (PAI)—Saying “there is no free lunch or road or bridge,” in paying to fix or improve the nation’s roads, bridges, subways, buses, airports and other infrastructure, the Economic Policy Institute is calling for raising the federal gas tax, retaining the key federal role and funding for such projects – and for keeping worker rights as part of the package.

            Those positions, laid out by EPI President Thea Lee at a March 7 House Transportation panel hearing, agree with those of transportation, building trades and other unions, but fly in the face of the anti-tax, anti-worker, anti-federal orthodoxy of Congress’s ruling Republicans.

            Lawmakers called two sessions on the GOP Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion 10-year infrastructure outline. Lee was the only witness the Democratic minority was allowed to invite.

            The day before, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao discussed Trump’s blueprint, while the other witnesses seated with Lee were from industry, state highway departments or business.

          The Trump plan features no increase in the gas tax and 80 percent state and local funding – with the rest in so-called “private-public partnerships.” Workers and their congressional allies contend that would funnel the infrastructure money into the pockets of Wall Street financiers and not into rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges, subways and airports.

            Lee said the federal gas tax, at 18.4 cents per gallon, hasn’t risen since 1993. Its revenues chronically fall short of money needed just to repair roads, bridges and subways and keep buses running. She urged a gas tax hike as a first, but not only, step.

            “Our research at EPI indicates strongly that reversing this chronic underinvestment in infrastructure will require a strong federal role and a commitment of federal resources,” Lee added, taking direct aim at Trump’s plan. Right now, states and cities “finance a large share of infrastructure, particularly highways and transit. This…strategy led us to the current situation, which virtually everybody agrees” is inadequate or worse.

            “Infrastructure done right would boost job creation as well as the long-run productivity of the American economy,” said Lee, the former longtime chief policy analyst for the AFL-CIO.

            If Congress doesn’t want to raise the gas tax, there are other alternatives, she noted. They include imposing user fees tied to how many miles a vehicle travels. “But the most important goal is simply to provide the resources needed to keep highway and transit investments from being strangled,” she commented.

            Turning over funding to private-public partnerships doesn’t work, either, Lee said. It doesn’t provide enough money at low interest rates, it leaves the states and cities on the hook and it sacrifices worker protections – and the efficiencies that come with them. “Advocates of ‘leveraging the private sector’ obscure or underplay this basic economic truth,” Lee said.

            “Federally funded infrastructure investment is more likely to incorporate requirements for strong labor standards — ensuring it supports good jobs with good wages. Plans that lean more heavily on private financing should not be used as an excuse to ignore labor standards. If they did, these plans would likely see fewer good jobs created through infrastructure invest-ments. Infrastructure projects that pay good wages have durable benefits for communities and local tax bases, unlike those that seek to undermine decent wages and standards.” 



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Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

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