Examining Workforce Development and Job Creation in Surface Transportation Construction
2167 Rayburn House Office Building and online via videoconferencing
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-IL):
Thank you, Chair Norton. I want to welcome everyone to today’s hearing about the workforce challenges faced by those who build our nation’s roads and bridges. I want to thank our witnesses for being here today, and I appreciate the Committee’s flexibility to allow for this hybrid hearing.
As recently-approved transportation funding begins to go out, I am expecting there to be a need for more skilled craftspeople. While many challenges exist for constructing our nation’s core infrastructure, ensuring a readily available, skilled craft workforce is an initial challenge. But it’s not the only challenge, and it’s important to remember the context of this hearing and what we are discussing today.
Earlier this month, we once again saw sky-high inflation numbers – 8.5 percent. Inflation in March was the highest level in 40 years. The Biden Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the nation’s supply chain crisis. Paying people to stay home has only made it harder to find skilled, trained workers. Add that to soaring gas and diesel prices and construction costs having the largest year-over-year spike since 1970, and a project simply costs more today than it did five months ago.
So as this infrastructure money gets awarded, it’s important that this Administration provides recipients with the flexibility needed to ensure that they can be built in the most cost-effective way.
One cost-effective way is to fully implement One Federal Decision. Since its enactment, this Administration has dragged its feet in implementing this industry changing legislation. For too long, worthy infrastructure projects have been needlessly delayed by our permitting system. Time is money, and in a world of skyrocketing inflation, further delay in implementing this law limits the total number of jobs infrastructure money creates.
As the federal government begins to allocate funds for infrastructure projects, we must ensure our workforce is available and ready from the start so that dollars can stretch further. Building trades and contractors are essential to our nation’s economic growth, and I’ve long supported policies to support the construction workforce.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about some of the challenges that exist in matching our workforce to our critical infrastructure needs.