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Resolutions & Amendments

26th International Convention - San Francisco, CA (1984)

Rebuilding America's Infrastructure

Resolution No. 157
26th International Convention
June 18-22, 1984
San Francisco, CA


No program to revitalize America's industrial base and its distressed communities can succeed unless it has a component aimed at rebuilding and maintaining our physical infrastructure — the transportation, water, waste disposal, and communications systems. While dramatic events, like a bridge collapse, often call our attention to the damage that can be inflicted by failures in these systems, the less visible, chronic deterioration of the infrastructure saps our economy's productivity each and every day. For example, dilapidated roads, bridges, railbeds, and port facilities interfere with the timely and efficient movement of materials and final goods to and from the marketplace; and


America's investment in its physical infrastructure is not only failing to keep up with the needs of a growing population and economy, it has also been inadequate to the task of preserving what is already in place. A recent report from the Joint Economic Committee of Congress predicts a $450 billion (constant dollar) gap between what will be needed to maintain and improve roads, bridges, sewers and water systems between now and the year 2000, and the funding that will be available from Federal and state sources to meet this need. Even this alarming figure fails to include a number of other types of critical public facilities, including public hospitals and housing, correctional facilities, and schools; and


The ability of state and local governments to finance needed investment and maintenance of the infrastructure has been hit with a double blow during the Reagan Administration. The recession it engineered to attack inflation so depressed state and local government revenues that this sector as a whole had an operating deficit in 1982, while cuts in federal aid added a $41 billion revenue loss to state and local governments between 1982 and 1984. Since capital investment and maintenance are one of the most easily-deferred expenditures, infrastructure has borne an especially heavy share of the cutbacks these jurisdictions have had to make to keep their budgets in balance; and


While meeting critical national needs for more efficient transportation systems, purer water supplies, etc., expanded investment in infrastructure construction and maintenance will make a major contribution to our most pressing national need — JOBS! These types of projects create jobs in precisely those categories in which jobs have been lost due to both the current business cycle and structural trends in the economy. With a growing concern about the "declining middle" of the occupational structure, infrastructure investments have the potential for creating an enormous number of new jobs for dislocated workers in heavy construction, skilled building trades, steel and building supply manufacturing, and related industries.


That AFSCME endorses the following actions aimed at rebuilding the public infrastructure that is essential to the revitalization of our nation's economy:

  1. changing federal policy to encourage better infrastructure maintenance, including allowing greater flexibility in the use of existing grants;
  2. developing a national capital budget to plan and coordinate the rebuilding of our nation's infrastructure;
  3. establishing a federal infrastructure bank to guarantee state and municipal bonds, to provide low-interest long-term loans for revenue-producing capital projects, and to finance infrastructure projects that are in the national interest;
  4. providing a taxable bond option combined with direct federal interest subsidies for state and local governments, and
  5. restoring funds cut by the Reagan Administration from the Urban Mass Transit, EPA Wastewater Treatment, and Community Development Block Grant programs, and authorizing additional targeted expenditures to rebuild and renovate facilities with special needs, including public housing, public hospitals, and correctional institutions.


Peter Benner, Delegate
Council 6
St. Paul, Minnesota