The labor community has patiently waited for Congress to agree on an infrastructure plan. However, it is unclear how much progress was made as talks have stalled over what will be funded.
Transportation Trades Department President Greg Regan discussed what needs to happen in order to pass a plan and what should be included on the AWF Union Podcast. He also discussed the safety of public transit operators and passengers.
Passing an infrastructure bill in a divided Senate
While House Democrats had little trouble passing an infrastructure bill, Senate Democrats face an uphill battle. The likelihood of a bill getting 60 votes is slim, as Republicans have taken issue with the amount of funds proposed for public transit.
Regan said Democrats should use reconciliation to pass the bill. The reconciliation process will allow Democrats to allocate funds where they see fit, such as public transportation. Former President Trump and many current Senate Republicans supported reconciliation during a failed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, as well as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
No matter how an infrastructure bill is passed, Regan said the funds should be spent in a fair manner. With such a large investment in infrastructure, all areas need to benefit, not just roads or public transit. He believes Republicans will support a bill that gives little money to public transit.
The main area of concern for Regan is funding roads and bridges. Public transportation requires the use of roads and bridges to operate, but many are not sufficient or safe. Outdated roads put wear and tear on cars, trucks and busses, which ultimately cost taxpayers, private citizens and companies.
The dangers of public transit
Regan said the COVID-19 pandemic caused plenty of unknowns regarding public transit. At the federal level, masks are mandated to be worn on public transportation, no matter vaccination status.
Tensions run high on public transit, as some people are upset with the mandate and cause trouble for operators. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an overall dangerous environment for those who work in and rely on public transportation.