Keeping an Optimistic, Yet Watchful Eye on the Ball

It looks like President Obama and his administration kept most of the great ideas explored with the Grow America Act, last year's transportation initiative.

The total investment is increased to $478 billion and expanded to six years in the latest iteration of the budget released yesterday.

A few of the best pieces for low-income communities include:

  • Much more money for transit ($29 billion or a 76 percent increase over six years), changing the age old 80/20 highway/transit split.
  • $369 million in job training dollars.
  • Minorities and women would get a boost to enter good paying construction sector jobs.
  • Outdated local hire prohibitions would be modified.
  • State Departments of Transportation would create workforce plans to move diverse workers into jobs and job training.
  • The innovative TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program would be funded at a $1.25 billion level.

And the Transportation Equity Network (TEN) will be watching a few pieces:

  • Increasing use of Public Private Partnerships, which could lead to a lack of public accountability.
  • The proposed Infrastructure Bank must have workforce diversity requirements attached.
  • New rail dollars need to include minorities, people with disabilities and women, as contractors and as workers in both the construction and operation phase of their development.
  • Any increase in regressive taxes, such as the gas tax must include a give back for low income people, such as an increase in Earned Income Tax Credits, particularly for low income, rural commuters.

(Photo: #BlackLivesMatter protest on the steps of the Thomas Eagleton federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis, courtesy of Laura Barrett)

Laura Barrett is the executive director Interfaith Worker Justice.


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