US construction industry welcomes Biden with wish list, decries Trump’s “broken promises”

Construction industry bodies in the US have hailed Joe Biden’s election victory and urged the coming administration to address the failures of the Trump administration and honour Biden’s campaign pledges to renew the country’s infrastructure.

The president-elect was congratulated by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) and North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU).

The AGC, which represents construction employers, issued a statement on 9 November saying it welcomed Biden and newly elected members of Congress, and looked forward to helping "craft an agenda that is focused in rebuilding infrastructure and reviving the national economy".

Other items on its agenda are a long-term highway and transit law, liability reform that "protects honest firms from frivolous coronavirus lawsuits", and tax and credit measures to stimulate economic growth and demand for construction.

Meanwhile, the AED published a lengthy policy wish list on its website.

As with the AGC, a top priority is legislation on road building and maintenance. The FAST Act (short for Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) is set to expire in 2020 and the Highway Trust Fund that makes federal money available for road and mass transit projects is about to become insolvent owing to a long-standing tax freeze on petrol and diesel sales.

Other concerns are a growing shortage of skilled workers, a retreat from protectionism in international trade, a change in the way the tax code treats construction machinery, the abolition of certain regulations on working hours for drivers and a reform of the US’ "broken immigration system" to allow more workers with technical skills to enter the country.

It also calls for the continuation of fracking and action to "renew the vitality of other energy sectors – including coal – that have been undermined by past federal policy".

During his campaign, Biden said he was opposed to new fracking on federal land, and also pledged an immediate rejoining of the Paris climate accords, which would make assistance to coal production problematic.

For its part, NABTU welcomed the victory of the Biden-Harris ticket "on behalf of over 3 million skilled craft men and women" and urged it to address "the broken promises" of the Trump presidency.

Sean McGarvey, the association’s president, commented: "During this tumultuous time, with a severe and growing pandemic, existing economic crises with millions of Americans out of work, and our country’s divisiveness, NABTU looks forward to the calm, responsible, and forward-thinking leadership of a Biden administration."

The theme of President Trump’s failure to act on pledges to renew America’s crumbling infrastructure was also taken up by Brian Turmail, the AGC’s vice-president for public affairs, who said in an interview that contractors hoped Biden would come through on pledges where Trump did not.

He said: "The Trump administration’s failure to deliver on infrastructure called to mind the Charlie Brown comic strip in which Lucy continually pulled the football away just as Charlie Brown attempted a kick."

He said there had been "a whole lot of talk, there was a whole lot of infrastructure weeks … we had some modest successes in investment in infrastructure but compared to what was a primary campaign platform for President Trump, one of his promises, we never did see the kind of infrastructure investment that was promised. Certainly, that was a disappointment."

Image: The victory of the Biden-Harris campaign is welcomed in Portland, Maine (Dreamstime)

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