Last weekend we saw firsthand that bipartisanship is still possible in Washington with the announcement of a historic infrastructure deal that is currently making its way through the Senate.

The importance of this moment cannot be understated. While concerns remain as negotiations continue, this legislation is a massive step in the right direction. A group of bipartisan senators worked tirelessly, amidst pressure from both parties and the White House to get this bill to the floor, and they should be applauded for doing so. The billions of dollars this bill will infuse into our communities provides a once-in-a-lifetime investment in America’s infrastructure, the benefits of which we will see for generations to come.

The legislation contains hard fought legislative priorities that satisfy both sides of the aisle. Along with providing much needed funding for traditional infrastructure – roads, bridges, airports, ports, waterways and railways – the bill also provides much-needed provisions that will cut down on delays in federal construction projects, making the projects prioritized in the bill a reality sooner. Further, the legislation provides robust support for workforce development across the country, helping to fill America’s growing labor shortage.

On top of this much-needed funding, the legislation also includes a vital provision fought for by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to address environmental issues in construction projects. For years, federal projects have been plagued by delays because of numerous and often frivolous claims of environmental issues. This bill would solve this problem through reauthorizing the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, with new language to modernize the National Environmental Protection Act. These changes will help keep projects on time and on budget, saving millions in taxpayer dollars.

These important projects, however, will never be realized unless our workforce is able to support them. This is why the legislation includes workforce development grants states can access to support the creation of apprenticeship and career opportunities for on the job training and mentorship. These grants will empower vocational schools to work with states and employers, while providing the best approach to educate all workers.

Perhaps most important, this bill does not contain any of the damaging tax increases or workforce unionization requirements that were pushed by some Democrats throughout the drafting process.

Even with all of the positive aspects of the legislation, concerns remain surrounding key labor provisions and implementation of the bill. The bill contains language calling for damaging prevailing wage provisions that are sure to increase the cost of these projects, and “local hire” provisions serve as an under the radar way to prioritize the awarding of federal contracts to unionized firms, resulting in further cost increases that will be felt by the taxpayer. Further, the administration of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris has made it no secret that it is their intention to prioritize the hiring of union workers over firms that chose to remain without a union. It is difficult to overlook such preferences, given such a sharp increase in federal spending under this deal.

While the investment in our infrastructure that this bill provides is critical for the future of our country and should be celebrated, we encourage our senators to take a careful look at the labor provisions in the legislation and fight on behalf of the merit shop construction industry.

Should this important legislation be enacted, we ask our senators and the administration to implement the law under the same bipartisan spirit which it was crafted under. Avoiding playing favorites when awarding projects will ensure that all members of Maine’s construction industry will have the ability to bid on these once in a lifetime projects, and have a stake in building their country and their communities for the future.

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