Contractors Shooting for Political Change
Work in transportation
The stakes are high for companies like Granite Construction Inc., which has contributed $1 million to defeat Proposition 6, which would repeal new fuel taxes and vehicle fees earmarked for road and transit improvements.
According to Caltrans, the Company based in Watsonville, California, has received $955 million in transportation contracts over the last five years, including road and bridge projects.
Other state contractors have also contributed significantly. According to records, the ten construction firms that contributed the most to the No on Proposition 6 campaign — a total of $3.6 million — have been paid more than $2.7 billion by the California Department of Transportation in the last five years.
Construction companies and others, including building trade associations, labor, cities, and the Democratic Party, have contributed nearly $43 million to the campaign to defeat Proposition 6.
The initiative’s proposed taxes and fees will generate an additional $52 billion for road repairs and rail services over the next ten years. Granite Construction’s president and CEO, James H. Roberts, acknowledged that his company and others in the construction industry stand to benefit from the new revenue. Still, he got involved in the campaign because the ballot measure’s passage would significantly stall efforts to address decades of neglect of the state’s transportation systems.
“We just got tired of seeing a lack of infrastructure investment across the country,” Roberts explained his Company’s campaign contributions. “Right in front of us, the infrastructure was collapsing.”
Roberts said his commute from the Monterey Peninsula to his office used to be a breeze when he first started doing it 20 years ago, but now he and other motorists are stuck in traffic during rush hour.
However, the money poured into the anti-Proposition six campaign by those with vested interests has enraged supporters of the initiative.
“The money is heinous. “The conflicts of interest are obscene,” said Carl DeMaio, the chairman of the Proposition 6 campaign and a former San Diego city councilman. “A contractor receives money from the taxpayer and then writes a massive check to raise taxes on the taxpayer.” Something is seriously wrong with that.”
Repeal supporters have only raised $3.4 million in the months since the measure qualified for the November 6 ballot.
DeMaio stated that the average contribution to his Proposition 6 campaign committee is $37. However, a separate committee that led the initiative’s qualification raised $1.7 million with the help of several prominent Republicans, including GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox, who gave $250,000, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), who gave $300,000.
DeMaio was particularly critical of out-of-state interests that funded the opposition campaign during a debate on the initiative earlier this month in Sacramento.
Lehigh Hanson Inc., based in Texas, and HNTB Corp., based in Kansas City, Mo., contributed $500,000 to the campaign to defeat Proposition 6. Lane Construction Corp. of Connecticut contributed $200,000, and Ames Construction Inc. of Minnesota was one of 15 companies that contributed $100,000 each to the campaign.
In an interview, DeMaio stated, “Out-of-state interests are attempting to raise taxes on Californians.” “That ought to raise a few eyebrows.”
Large contributions from out-of-state interests are not uncommon in California initiative campaigns. Experts believe this is due to California’s large market and economy and the fact that policies approved by voters in the Golden State tend to spread to other states.
Tobacco giant Philip Morris, headquartered in New York City, spent $44 million in 2016 to oppose California’s Proposition 56, which imposed a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes. The voters approved the referendum.
That same year, pharmaceutical companies contributed $109 million to a campaign that defeated Proposition 61, a prescription drug cost-cutting initiative. Merck & Company, headquartered in New Jersey, and Pfizer Inc., headquartered in New York City, were the largest donors.
Ames, Lehigh, and HNTB all have regional offices in California and are involved in the Proposition 6 debate. According to Art Hadnett, president of HNTB Corp.’s West Division in Los Angeles, HNTB weighed in because it believes Proposition 6 would be “dangerous,” putting motorists at risk with substandard road conditions.
“If transportation projects are delayed or canceled, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost, including engineers, architects, construction workers, and concrete pourers,” Hodnett said.
According to a federal report issued during the Obama administration, every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure creates 13,000 jobs.
Because of these prospects, labor groups representing a diverse range of workers, including engineers, carpenters, and ironworkers, have joined the “No on 6” campaign. These organizations have contributed more than $12 million to the initiative’s defeat.
“We are deeply concerned about the potential job losses if Proposition 6 passes,” said Jose Mejia, the California State Council of Laborers director.
Granite Construction, which provides building supplies such as aggregate for ready-mixed concrete and performs construction work on roads and transit projects, saw its business grow even before the new gas taxes went into effect last November.
However, the firm, founded in 1922 and did some of the original work on the subway lines that comprise the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, has landed more jobs as the state has increased road maintenance work since raising fuel taxes last year. If Proposition 6 passes, that work could be jeopardized.
“It would prevent us from expanding that part of the business,” Roberts explained. “It would be difficult to predict what would happen to the state’s nearly 2,000 employees.” However, it would be far more detrimental to the traveling public than to a company like ours.” Nowadays most construction companies are working with Lawmakers to give a healthy environment to workers.
Work in transportation The stakes are high for companies like Granite Construction Inc., which has contributed $1 million to defeat Proposition 6, which would repeal new fuel taxes and vehicle fees earmarked for road and transit improvements. According to Caltrans, the Company based in Watsonville, California, has received $955 million in transportation contracts over the…