Kilcup, Zamzow and McGarry Lobby Congress on Card Check, Infrastructure and More

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AGC of Washington President Lee Kilcup (GLY Construction) and Anne Kilcup visit with AGC of Utah President Rob Moore (Big-D Construction) during the National and Chapter Leadership Conference.

Card check legislation infrastructure spending and three percent withholding requirements were among the pressing issues addressed with Members of Congress by Chapter leaders during AGC of America’s annual National and Chapter Leadership Conference. AGC of Washington President Lee Kilcup (GLY Construction) First Vice President Tom Zamzow (Granite Construction) Second Vice President Pat McGarry (Manson Construction) and Chapter staff leaders met with members of the Washington State Congressional delegation.

“After the visit I feel that overall our representatives in D.C. are more supportive of our key issues than I would have expected” said McGarry. Despite that support movement on construction industry issues is being slowed by the overwhelming amount of attention being given to health care reform. “Health care reform is trumping everything right now” noted Zamzow.

Nevertheless the visitors believed progress was made with individual legislators. Zamzow used his firm’s real-world experience to highlight problems in the so-called Employee Free Choice Act or card check legislation that among other things allows an unreasonably short time frame once a union is certified for businesses and unions to reach agreement on contractual terms before it goes to binding arbitration. “In Granite’s case management and the unions jointly desired to reach an agreement but even in that amicable scenario it took months to reach an agreement that worked for both our business and our people. It wouldn’t have benefitted anyone to cut short the time it takes to reach an amenable agreement and to send it to an arbitrator who may or may not understand the industry.”

Zamzow’s experience resonated with at least some members of the Congressional delegation particularly Rep. Rick Larsen who made a point to arrange a follow up meeting between his staff and Zamzow at Granite Construction in Everett.

McGarry brought needed attention to the South Park Bridge a crumbling but important freight corridor over the Duwamish River near Boeing Field. “There’s a famous picture that shows kayakers chipping concrete off the bridge’s foundations” McGarry said. “King County inspectors gave the bridge a very poor score of four out of 100 per Federal Highway Administration criteria while the I-35 Bridge in Minnesota had a score of 50 at the time of its collapse.” The Members of Congress were more familiar with the higher profile Highway 520 and Viaduct Replacement projects then the South Park Bridge even though it is permitted comparatively low cost and “shovel ready.”

There were no firm commitments given on specific projects but with regard to transportation projects in general there was strong support for a six-year reauthorization of the SAFETEALU transportation act rather than the short term extensions that the program has been receiving lately.

The issue that seemed to have the broadest support among the policymakers is repeal of the three-percent withholding law that says beginning in 2012 federal state and local governments are to withhold three percent from all payments for goods and services as a guard against possible business tax evasion. The start date of the law has been pushed back a few times and it appears there’s significant support for repealing it altogether. “During our meeting Congressman Norm Dicks committed to join fellow Congressmen Brian Baird and Rick Larsen as a cosponsor of legislation to repeal this tax” said Kilcup.

Approximately 160 Congressional offices were visited by AGC leaders from around the country. Another top issue discussed during these meetings was AGC’s newly-released blueprint on how to stimulate demand for construction. The document “Build Now for the Future: A Blueprint for Economic Growth” outlines a series of commonsense incentives tax credits and policy changes designed to stimulate new private and public-sector demand for construction.

“The Members of Congress that we met with were generally cognizant of the high unemployment rate in our industry and supportive of AGC’s efforts to promote construction activity” Kilcup said.

Kilcup noted another valuable element of the DC trip: Greater awareness of the wealth of information AGC of America makes available regarding the federal construction market. Through AGC members can access information on federal contracting requirements ethics and compliance issues the federal construction marketplace and more. Click here for more on federal contracting on AGC of America’s website.

For background info on – and to contact Members of Congress about – card check three percent withholding and other issues click AGC of America Legislative page.

“Our bottom-line request to Congress was for help to get people in the construction industry back to work” McGarry said.