Creating jobs and fighting climate change go hand in hand, some of Colorado's top Democrats said at an event organized by environmentalist at Union Station in Denver Wednesday morning.
Gov. Jared Polis, U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse called on their colleagues in Congress to finance rail and other transit projects, as well as invest in infrastructure for election vehicles as lawmakers consider infrastructure in the upcoming budget reconciliation.
While the Senate passed the bill on a 69-30 bipartisan vote on Aug. 10, the House voted 220 to 212 along party lines a week ago on a motion to instruct committees to write the $3.5 trillion budget bill that will include more than $1 trillion for infrastructure.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would bring the infrastructure bill to a vote before Sept. 27.
Colorado's current governor and a former congressman for awhile has been singing the chorus: environmental sustainability can also be economic stability.
Polis pointed to the $5.4 billion legislation he signed in June that includes investments in transit and electric vehicles, in addition to traditional road-and-bridge work. The bill is backed by nearly $4 billion in new fees on gasoline, deliveries and electric vehicles.
"We also need Congress to step up, both here in Colorado and across the country to help meet the needs, so Colorado and America can show climate leadership and leadership in job creation," Polis said Wednesday.
Hickenlooper, the former governor, told the crowd that LoDo was "my old 'hood," pointing to the brew pub he started with partners in 1988 near Union Station, back when the now-thriving area was run down and economically challenged.
That urban revitalization was fueled by investments in transportation infrastructure, he said.
"Most importantly we created jobs," said Hickenlooper, who also is Denver's former mayor. "I think that's what President Biden has laid out in his agenda. He has been relentless in talking about that it's not just infrastructure. It's not just about fighting climate change and COVID. It's about jobs. It's about building an economy that's going to include everyone and lift up Colorado and the United States of America."
Neguse said Hickenlooper had worked tirelessly on the bipartisan deal in the Senate, which could prove to be the nation's largest investment in infrastructure since the construction of a national highway system.
He said Polis, his predecessor representing the 2nd Congressional District, had "made a concerted effort each and every day to try to convey to the people of our wonderful state that and creating good-paying union jobs are not mutually exclusive concepts, that we can and we must do both."
The congressman from Lafayette added, "We have a very short runway here in the next seven weeks to do what I believe ... to make a Herculean, once-in-a-lifetime, generational investment in creating good-paying jobs that ultimately will help us protect our environment."
In an address to the Colorado Chamber of Commerce last month, U.S. Rep Ken Buck, a Republican from Windsor, supported investing in infrastructure but not reckless spending.
“Business people, more than anybody in the world, understand that you’ve got to pay your bills,” he told the chamber. “We can’t keep doing to our country what we’re doing. This is a moral issue for our children and our grandchildren. If we are serious about infrastructure, then let’s put spending caps in place. Let’s put a sequester in place. Let’s make sure that we are spending not just today to try to get a president reelected or members of Congress reelected. Let’s make sure that in 20 years, we have the resources that we can invest in our country. And we do that through responsible spending, not through this kind of bill.”
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that while investing in infrastructure pays dividends in the long run, it will "likely heap more fuel on the inflation fire," while finding little that stimulates the economy immediately, citing a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
"During road construction, for instance, traffic increases substantially, falling only after the project is completed," the paper said. "More traffic increases the amount of time it takes for the economy to produce the same amount of goods and services, which pushes prices higher. With such a large infrastructure package, we can expect this phenomenon to be widespread."
Wednesday's gathering was organized by the BlueGreen Alliance, a national organization that seeks to wed labor and climate activism.
"The BlueGreen Alliance is a national organization that brings together labor unions and environmental organizations under one promise: We believe that it is fundamental that we create good working jobs, living wage jobs for Americans and also tackle the climate crisis," said Chris Markuson, the alliance's director of Colorado as well as state economic transition policy.
Watch the event by clicking here.