Unions Laud Passage of Water and Sewer Projects Bill

WASHINGTON– Saying that Congress finally did something to help create U.S. jobs, unions lauded congressional passage of a comprehensive water-and-sewer projects bill.  The House approved it on May 20, 412-4, and the Senate OKd it on May 22, 91-7.

All 11 “no” votes came from Republicans: Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Tim Huelskamp (Kansas) and Matt Salmon, (Ariz.), and Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jeff Flake and John McCain (Ariz.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Pat Roberts (Kansas).

The 10-year measure gives “a much-needed boost“ to U.S. ports and waterways, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind said.

“With billions of dollars needed to upgrade our ports and harbors, millions still looking for work, and mega-ships poised to divert to foreign seaports because U.S. maritime facilities have failed to modernize quickly enough, this legislation could not have come at a better time,” he added.

The measure plans $12.3 billion in construction, including 34 new projects.

The measure does not dole out money for the water and sewer projects, but sets stan-dards for which ones are eligible for federal funds, and streamlines procedures for approving them.

Funding comes from separate money bills.  Still, Wytkind called it a valuable step.

“As part of the final agreement, the bill retains reforms designed to ensure that funds collected through the Harbor Maintenance Tax and deposited into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund are used for their intended purpose and not diverted or left unspent. This has long been a priority for TTD unions and will strengthen our maritime and port sectors for years to come,” he explained.

The water-and-sewer bill “will lower transportation costs for businesses, provide billions in flood-protection to at-risk communities, refurbish our nation’s locks and dams, provide much-needed harbor and river maintenance, reduce pollution, improve human health and create as many as 500,000 new jobs for American workers,” Laborers President Terry O’Sullivan said when the Senate approved its version last year.  It’s the first water-and-sewer bill since 2007.