AEM president Dennis Slater called for passage of a long-term highway funding bill by the end of March, a move that he said would go a long way toward providing market certainty to the nation's contractors. In addition, he said legislators must do a better job of creating a strategy for addressing overall infrastructure needs.
"After 18 hours of debate, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved H.R. 7, its five-year highway bill, early on Friday, February 3, after much partisan bickering." Slater said. "Also today, the House Ways and Means Committee approved the funding to support H.R. 7. The Senate is also preparing its surface transportation bill for floor consideration possibly next week, a two-year bill championed by Senator Boxer.
"In this difficult budget environment, the House bill is notable for maintaining existing levels of funding, streamlining the project approval process and having no earmarks. There is no doubt that the 'how-to-fund' and other issues in both the House and Senate bills are very contentious and that shortfalls still exist. There is still a long way to go and we support both the House and Senate process moving forward.
"Number one, we need a House bill passed and a Senate bill passed before legislators in conference committee can debate and iron out the differences for a final bill. Congress was able to do this with the recently passed FAA aviation funding legislation, and this bipartisanship example is encouraging. We urge our legislators to work towards passage of a long-term bill by March 31, the deadline for current stop-gap funding.
"Equipment sales have improved in recent months, driven by exports and rental customers updating their fleets. This growth is not guaranteed to be sustainable, especially with the fragile global economy. While there is increasing pent-up demand, contractors need longer-term market certainty before they make capital investments to meet the demand.
"Number two, neither bill examines the lack of strategies to meet America's overall infrastructure investment needs. Our country's global competiveness is at stake, and our legislators must also have the political will to focus on real solutions if we are to maintain economic prosperity.
"AEM and its members will be actively urging congressional leaders to expeditiously approve a highway bill."