President Barack Obama’s proposals to address the nation’s slack jobs market failed to generate widespread enthusiasm in the design and construction sectors.
Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy
|President Obama addresses joint session of Congress on Thursday, Sept. 8.|
The top officer of Associated Builders and Contractors said the organization was “disappointed” by the president’s message on jobs, delivered in an impassioned address to a joint session of Congress last Thursday.
The American Institute of Architects gave the President’s message a kinder review, as AIA President ClarkManus said the institute found “several issues on which we agree in the President’s sweeping jobs proposal, including extending the payroll tax cut for another year and his emphasis on rebuilding America’s infrastructure, which includes homes and commercial buildings in the President’s view.”
But Manus said AIA continues to campaign for a continuation of the “Build America Bonds” program to fund new construction projects.
In his address to Congress, Obama called on lawmakers to pass a $450 billion plan to “jolt an economy that has stalled,” and urged cuts in payroll taxes, new spending on construction projects, and extension of employment benefits.
The President, however, faces an uphill battle to pass any new economic programs in the face of hostile Republicans in Congress and budget constraints.
Act on Regulations, Construction Group Urges
The President’s jobs plan “won’t pass inspection” in terms of job creation and getting Americans back to work, said Associated Builders and contractors 2011 National Chairman Michael J. Uremovich, president of Great Lakes Energy Consultants LLC, Manhattan, Ill.
“We are disappointed that the president did not come up with any new, innovative ideas to address the nation’s serious economic problems, especially the critical issues facing the construction industry,” Uremovich said.
“Job growth will not begin until we first rollback the costly, burdensome and job-killing regulations that have buried business owners in government red tape and created a climate of uncertainty among construction contractors,” he said.
Also missing from the president’s plan, Uremovich said, was an initiative on public-private partnerships to invest in improving the nation’s infrastructure, including energy facilities, schools and military installations, without adding to the deficit. He said the Military Housing Privatization Initiative is one example of a “public-private partnership where the private sector and the federal government profited, jobs were created and federal infrastructure was improved, enhanced and expanded at no cost to the taxpayer, the federal government or the deficit.”
Associated Builders and Contractors is a national association representing more than 23,000 merit-shop construction and construction-related companies with nearly two million employees.
AIA’s Manus said that in the two years the Build America Bonds program was authorized, state and local governments used the program to finance roughly $180 billion new construction projects, “preserving tens of thousands of jobs. We estimate that at least $45 billion of that amount was used in the construction sector to finance schools, offices, hospitals and other building projects that improve communities.”
Manus added: “The AIA will continue to work with our allies on Capitol Hill to make sure that the built environment is included in debates on how to revitalize America’s infrastructure.
“It’s important to remember that the parties need to put partisanship aside; this is about rebuilding our economy by rebuilding America’s livelihoods and communities. As we’ve stated repeatedly, every 1 billion dollars invested in non-residential design and construction results in 28,500 full-time jobs. We can think of no better job creation equation than that.”
Remodelers Group Urges Restoration
of Full Tax Credit for Energy Efficiency Projects
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) issued a statement applauding the President’s “focus on job creation,” and urged “full reinstatement of the 25C tax credit program for residential energy-efficient improvements.”
“The 25C tax credit had significant impact on job creation in the remodeling and manufacturing sectors, as well as in energy reduction,” said David Merrick, chairman of NARI’s Government Affairs Committee.
“The full reinstatement of the program will stimulate job growth and stability in small businesses,” Merrick said.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established a federal tax credit for energy-efficient home improvements (found in section 25C of the tax code), NARI points out. The 30% credit applies to energy-efficiency improvements for existing homes and the purchase of high-efficiency heating, cooling, and water-heating equipment. Until 2010, homeowners were able to take a combined credit up to $1,500 for equipment purchased during a two-year period; the lifetime credit cap was lowered to $500 in 2010.
“The program was successful in that many people exceeded the spending minimum required for the $1,500 tax credit, and that resulted in a large influx in retrofit work as well as investments back into homes for the long term,” Merrick said.
NARI said its members have noticed a decrease in retrofit work since the credit cap was cut by two-thirds last year, and are calling for President Obama to reinstate the full $1,500 credit cap in the 25C, “especially since the goals to create jobs and increase energy efficiency are still relevant today,” Merrick said.