On Monday, June 12th, the Penn-Del-Jersey Chapter co-hosted its first ever Congressional Summit to discuss federal infrastructure spending. The Summit, which took place in King of Prussia, PA, brought together stakeholder groups from regional labor unions of various construction trades, management associations, and the southeastern Pennsylvania congressional delegation. Even NECA’s National government affairs team traveled to PA to join the discussion.
Jeff Scarpello, the Executive Director of the Chapter, said, “This was a great opportunity, in the midst of such an impassioned political climate, to show that members of our congressional delegation and our industry, all with different ideologies, can gather in one room and have a respectful and productive conversation about a complicated topic. This is how it should always be.”
The highlight of the Summit included a panel discussion with five bipartisan members of Congress—Representative Ryan Costello, Rep. Charlie Dent, Rep. Dwight Evans, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, and Rep. Pat Meehan. Staff from the offices of Rep. Bob Brady and U.S. Senator Bob Casey also attended.
The congressional panelists discussed their vision for a federal infrastructure package and what they think the next steps are in order to see a bill through to finish. Together, they shared a wealth of information. In his opening remarks, Costello noted that the definition of infrastructure must be broad in order to include such things as rural broadband expansion and upgrades to the electrical grid, in addition to the construction of projects like roads and bridges. Meehan discussed the opportunity to direct repatriated foreign earnings towards infrastructure projects. Fitzpatrick mentioned the need to streamline the permitting process and take advantage of our country’s apprentice infrastructure. Evans was hopeful that Congress could move forward in a bipartisan fashion on infrastructure and stated that he saw a great need for mass transit upgrades. Dent stressed that enacting tax reform is essential to financing any infrastructure package and he seconded the hope to remove many rules and regulations in order to accelerate projects and stretch federal tax dollars.
The Congressmen also fielded questions from the audience on topics such as the importance of Davis-Bacon, the challenges of the manufacturing sector, and the reality of passing major initiatives in the current political climate.
In summary, it was a fantastic start to the workweek and it will be just a part of the ongoing dialogue that is essential to passing effective legislation to improve our nation’s infrastructure.