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The United States huge, and growing, deficit numbers are setting the tone for the construction industry and highway funding is the message from an industry forum.
AED is an international trade association representing companies involved in the distribution, rental and support of equipment used in construction, mining, forestry, power generation, agriculture and industrial applications.
“The uncertainty and concern out there is intense,” said Jade West, senior vice president for government relations for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors during the 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) Executive Forum in September. “We’ve dodged a bullet this year…but the AMT (alternative minimum tax) needs to be done.”
And our nation’s capital is now in a “learning mode that it hasn’t been in for a long time,” West pointed out. It’s going to continue in this mode until a temporary fix is determined for SAFETEA-LU, which expired Sept. 30.
So far this year transportation funding from the stimulus bill has been successful, because of the “use it or lose it” provisions that have been imposed on the money, Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) explained during the AED meeting. “The HTF (Highway Trust Fund) is running $10 billion a year deficit for a $40 billion a year program. You don’t have to be a mathematician to realize that is unstable.”
The problem with starting a short-term extension is having no guarantee what the budget will be, Sandherr said. “You also wind up getting extension after extension after extension,” he said. “Once you start down that road, it’s a very good possibility you’ll have something like that (the 12 extensions between TEA-21 and SAFETEA-LU) again.”
However, Sandherr said that while the industry may be disappointed that much of what is being funded by the stimulus are “Patch and Pave” projects, “if we want additional funding, we can’t afford to kick the people who help us in the shins. We all have reasons to be disappointed,” he said, “but I’d hate to see what we’d look like without this money.”
Donald R. McNeely, president and COO of Chicago Tube and Iron Corp. and adjunct professor of engineering at Northwestern University, makes no bones about it: “We are not in a recession, we’re in a depression,” McNeeley said. “If you like someone, you tell them what they need to know not what they want to hear.”