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Sailing in Circles in the Nation’s Capital

By Pat McGarry President AGC of Washington

It’s not that we didn’t have positive interaction with members of our congressional delegation because we did.

And it’s not that progress isn’t being made on some things because it is.

It’s just that after visiting Washington DC recently with AGC members from around the country my primary take-home impression is that things are seriously seriously width=200dysfunctional there. I race catamarans as a hobby and I know what it’s like to sail in circles. It’s the same feeling I have after visiting Congress.

AGC of America hosted the annual National and Chapter Leadership Conference in DC during which I and fellow AGC of Washington Officers Butch Brooks of Miles Resources and Steve Isenhart of Tiger Construction joined David D’Hondt and chapter lobbyists Rick Slunaker and Duke Schaub on visits to the offices of House and Senate members from Washington State.

At each stop we talked about the economic impact of construction in the US the need for long-term highway bill and other infrastructure investments and the need to repeal the 3 percent withholding law. We made the case that support for the struggling construction industry would be a major step towards an economic upswing for everybody and that we have the blueprint to make that happen. We shared AGC of America’s national plan detailing measures to stimulate demand for construction by boosting private sector construction activity improving aging infrastructure and cutting needless and costly regulations. (That plan Building a Stronger Future: A New Blueprint for Economic Growth can be read here.)

We found that for funding issues including transportation all long-term decisions are on hold. Congress is in a state of suspended animation until at best the deficit-reduction “Super Committee” created during the debt ceiling crisis makes its recommendations in November and at worst until after the 2012 elections.

One bright spot however has to do with the 3 percent withholding law. As you probably know beginning January 1 2013 federal state and local governments will withhold 3 percent from each and every payment to contractors for goods and services. AGC has been working hard to repeal this law and these efforts are bearing fruit: we were told the full House will vote on the bill to repeal the law during the week of October 24. It is likely to pass the House but its fate beyond that point is uncertain. There is speculation that with the momentum of a positive House vote the repeal bill could be incorporated into the Super Committee’s list of recommendations. Thanks to Reps. Larsen Herrera Hastings McMorris-Rodgers Reichert and Smith for cosponsoring the bill.

But back to the dysfunction. Outside the “beltway” the media plays up the hyper-partisanship in Congress. Unfortunately it’s not a media creation; it’s real. And it was disappointing to get a first-hand sense of the lack of leadership on both sides of the aisle and how toxic members of both parties consider ideas coming from the other side.

I don’t think it’s a matter of general competence or intelligence; I genuinely think we have both of those things within Congress. What we’re missing is leadership the sort of leadership that can break through the finger-pointing and uncertainty like a cutter through ice.

We can’t just rant about this vacuum; we have to help fill it. So I encourage all AGC members to get involved – or get more involved – in politics and policymaking. Be involved in campaigns write checks serve on advisory committees and maybe even run for office.

This country is very resilient and we will adapt if shown a path. Right now though the country is sailing in circles. Let’s all help turn the rudder and get us back on the right course.

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