'Infrastructure' Bill Could Harm Hispanic Workers

'Infrastructure' Bill Could Harm Hispanic Workers
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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There’s a lot of hot air coming out of Washington right now about the need to do something to improve “infrastructure,” but the proposal under consideration won’t accomplish that. Instead of a carefully crafted bill with a focus on genuine problems, leaders are trying to cobble together votes to spend as much as $4 trillion on programs that will do little to improve roads and bridges, but which will hurt our economy, increase taxes, and damage small businesses trying to recover from the pandemic.

For America’s Hispanic community, it’s critical that Washington get this right. We’ve been hit hard by coronavirus, with higher unemployment and greater income losses than for other demographics. According to a recent survey, almost one out of five black or Hispanic-owned businesses are expected to close permanently over the next few months. The last thing we need is for Washington to raise taxes, impose costly new regulations, and approve massive new spending for which we will ultimately have to foot the bill.

Unfortunately, the spending bill under debate is one of the most expensive in history, and it includes the largest tax hike in a generation. With the economy beginning to rebound and grow again after a long struggle with COVID-19, raising taxes now would risk throwing us back into a costly and painful recession. Hispanic workers simply can’t afford that.

What’s more, despite a projected $2 trillion tax increase, the new spending in this bill will actually far outpace the higher taxes that will supposedly pay for it. The result will be to add to a national debt that has already grown beyond $28 trillion. That translates into higher taxes for our children and grandchildren down the road.

An additional problem is that only a small fraction of the bill is actually devoted to improving traditional infrastructure. By and large, it’s a grab bag of costly partisan projects unrelated to roads and bridges, including sweetheart subsidies for politically preferred companies and industries. It will reverse tax reductions enacted just a few years ago that promoted economic growth, and make it harder for workers to save and get ahead.

The package also adopts parts of the proposed PRO Act, including banning laws that allow people to hold jobs without joining and paying a union. It would restrict workers’ ability to earn a living as an independent contractor, and would implement costly and unnecessary financial penalties that would bankrupt small businesses. It is likely to be a disaster for the economy.

Workers and families deserve the assurance that their tax dollars are being spent effectively. That’s especially true for infrastructure spending, considering how important it is not only for public safety, but also to the economy.

Congress and the president should come together on key reforms that will help make sure dollars are spent where they will do the most good. That includes targeting genuine national priorities, and dedicating gas-tax revenue to highway projects. Power and authority should be returned to the states where possible, given their better knowledge about local and regional challenges. Private investment should be encouraged, so taxpayers aren’t the only ones paying the bill for transportation improvements. And unnecessary costs associated with permitting, regulations, and labor restrictions should be eliminated so taxpayers get their money’s worth.

If lawmakers were willing to stick to common-sense reforms like these, there would likely be bipartisan support for a smart package that spends dollars wisely, improves infrastructure, and boosts the ongoing economic recovery. We encourage leaders in Washington to try to accomplish exactly that. It would be a step forward for the Hispanic community, and all Americans.

Daniel Garza is president of The LIBRE Initiative.

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