WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure is holding a hybrid hearing titled “Utilization of Small Contractors in the Infrastructure Plan.”
Subcommittee Ranking Member Maria Salazar's opening statement as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, wonderful to see you and the rest of my colleagues, and holding this hearing is extremely important, because we are at a critical time of economic recovery from the pandemic, and our small business should be driving this recovery.
Infrastructure is the vehicle.
In South Florida we understand this dynamic – that our economy is linked to miles of coastline, one of America’s largest ports (is in district number 27), we have major U.S. highways, and an international airport in my district.
Infrastructure is fundamental to our daily lives. We rely on it to go to work and to provide for our families. We spend valuable time going from place to place, from here to there. When it works – it improves our lives, and it makes it a lot more enjoyable. But when highways are congested or public transit is delayed – it is not only frustrating, as I’m sure you know, but it hurts our productivity and our economic growth.
I think we can all agree that our aging infrastructure needs a major upgrade, and we must maintain our focus on improving the nation’s core infrastructure systems. I urge my colleagues across the aisle to work with us towards this goal.
Where we disagree, I believe, is on the definition of infrastructure. Unfortunately, President Biden’s plan is not about infrastructure at all, or very little.
For example, the plan the President proposed expands Medicaid coverage for home care (Medicare is fantastic for my constituents but it has nothing to do with infrastructure), puts billions and billions into social justice and violence prevention programs (that is fantastic but it has nothing to do with infrastructure), provides $12 billion to college infrastructure (I think education is key, the more you learn the more you earn, but it has nothing to do with infrastructure), $180 billion for research and development (for what? I don’t think research has anything to do with infrastructure)– with only a fraction of those moneys related to infrastructure, it makes it really hard for us to understand and agree with this bill the way it has been presented.
These issues may be fine for Congress to consider at another time – but we need to be honest with the American people, with your constituents and mine. The Administration is trying to fool us into believing that this wish-list, which we agree with but has nothing to do with infrastructure, should be part of this bill.
Now – to small businesses and contracting. If the goal of today’s hearing is to discuss the utilization of small contractors in the President’s package, we must understand the barriers that are imposed on small business owners.
Small businesses operate best when the government does not stand in the way, most things operate best when the government does not interfere. However, unfortunately this package subjects the small businesses to an extended new set of rules, restrictive labor rules like the PRO Act and other regulatory requirements that would end independent contracting, the franchise industry, and the sharing economy the way we know it now.
In addition to these job-killing regulations, the President has proposed to pay for this multi-trillion-dollar plan on the backs of small businesses through tax increases. At least 1 million small businesses will get a tax increase through this proposal.
The foundation of any infrastructure project is the construction business, and we have a lot down here in Miami. The majority of the builders and the contractors, or people who build buildings, are small businesses. In the construction industry, we have a labor shortage, as you know, and there are already difficulties hiring workers, not only in construction, but in welding, in electricians, all types of manufacturing related jobs. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 81% of construction firms are having trouble finding people, there are more jobs than hands, and 72% anticipate labor shortages to be the big hurdle this coming year.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to hearing the testimony of the witnesses today, and I would love to work across the aisle and make this a reality for all Americans. I yield back.