Knife River CEO: ‘A need for real jobs meeting real needs’

National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) Chairman Bill Schneider, president and CEO of Knife River Corp., testified July 27 before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the status of the stimulus and impacts on the aggregates industry.

Schneider told the committee that since passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act his company has been awarded nearly $200 million in stimulus projects throughout its 17-state operation, NSSGA’s  eDigest & Washington Watch report.

What’s more, Schneider said that Knife River’s current backlog is 20 percent stimulus funded.  He cautioned, however, that the industry is “headed back to square one and wondering what our future holds,” according to the report.

If Congress doesn’t pass a six-year highway bill soon, Schneider pointed out that construction job losses will skyrocket on an industry sector that already has an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent.

In Schneider’s testimony, he told Congress that the biggest issue right now is increasing revenue flow necessary for future funding. “With the overall condition of our economy, the biggest question is: Where will the money come from?” he asked.

“The U.S. already has the system in place – the Federal Highway Trust Fund,” he continued. “It needs to be restored to the strength it once had, and more money needs to be pumped into it to keep up with growing demands. It is difficult to consider raising the federal gas user fees, but many of us in the industry believe it may be our only answer at this point to fund highway projects that are in serious need. As noted in the previous research, American taxpayers would support it if it meant safe, efficient highways.

“I urge you to gather support for a long-term highway funding and multiyear authorization bill and make it a priority in Congress. Passing this bill, means you are essentially passing a jobs bill, putting thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans back to work not only in  the construction industry but in the many other supportive industries.

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“Supporting a well-funded multiyear authorization bill which includes capacity expansion also benefits millions of Americans who depend on safe driving surfaces. There is a need for real jobs meeting real needs to provide American taxpayers real value.”