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Backers Announce Support for Talent, Wyden’s Highway Bonds Idea

Fri November 28, 2003 - National Edition

WASHINGTON (AP) Sen. Jim Talent’s plan to fix roads by issuing $50 billion in transportation bonds is picking up support from labor unions, business groups, and transportation and construction groups.

Talent and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced a bill to issue "Build America Bonds" earlier this year as a way to raise money for cash-strapped states and cities.

The money would be separate from the multiyear federal highway bill that provides the bulk of states’ transportation dollars.

"We believe there’s a big deficit in highways and transportation infrastructure in this country, and it’s hurting everybody," Talent said at a Capitol news conference. "It’s costing lives. It’s costing jobs."

He and other supporters hope the new round of endorsements will strengthen their hand when they push the bill next year.

Supporters calling themselves the "Bricks and Mortar Coalition" include the Associated General Contractors of America; American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; National Asphalt Pavement Association; National Heavy & Highway Alliance, made up of the Laborers’ Union, Operating Engineers Union, Carpenters Union, Iron Workers Union, Plasterers’ & Cement Masons Union, Teamsters Union and Bricklayers Union.

The bill calls for a government-chartered nonprofit organization to issue 30-year bonds for purchase by individuals and businesses. Some proceeds would go into a trust fund to be invested in federal agency bonds or other high-grade investments.

Bondholders would receive tax credits, rather than interest, that could be applied against their federal income tax liability. States or localities receiving the bonds would be required to provide matching funds.