Obama proposes $50 billion to rebuild roads, rails and runways

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama Monday proposed a quick $50 billion boost in federal spending to rebuild roads, railways and runways — a move he says will create jobs and which Democrats hope will improve their election prospects in November.

Obama rolled out the Labor Day proposal at a speech in Milwaukee, the launch of a week-long push on the economy and jobs that will include an Ohio speech pushing tax breaks for business and a White House news conference on Friday.

It all comes as the country pivots to a fall campaign for control of Congress in which Democrats are expected to take a pounding. Independent analysts predict the Democrats could lose control of the House of Representatives, and perhaps the Senate, thanks largely to anger and anxiety about the economy. The unemployment this week ticked up to 9.6 percent.

The White House promised new jobs. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told the CBS “Early Show” Monday that Obama’s proposal would “put construction workers, welders, electricians back to work … folks that have been unemployed for a long time.”

At the same time, the White House released a statement that the infrastructure plan would “help jump-start additional job creation” and provide “much-needed jobs.”

White House aides conceded, however, that the proposal, which still would have to be approved by Congress and then implemented, is not likely to start creating jobs until next year.

“We’re not like trying to put out an idea today that in October, 2010, this is going to create a lot of jobs,” said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the White House insisted on it. “This is not what this is.”

Obama’s proposal would rebuild 150,000 miles of roads and highways, construct and maintain 4,000 miles of railway, rebuild or repair 150 miles of airport runways and upgrade the nation’s air traffic control system.

It also would boost spending for buses and to modernize the Amtrak fleet of railroad cars.

The plan would authorize spending and transportation policies for six years.

Aides did not say how much the overall plan would cost. They said only that the $50 billion spent at the outset would be a “significant share” of the total price.

They said the spending would be offset over 10 years, in part by raising taxes on the oil and gas industry.

On Wednesday, Obama plans to recycle an old proposal to make permanent a research tax break for business.

Steven Tomma / The Associated Press