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Kenosha City Council majority votes to support Biden's American Jobs Plan
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American Jobs Plan

Kenosha City Council majority votes to support Biden's American Jobs Plan

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The Kenosha City Council threw its collective hat into the ring to support President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which aims to fix infrastructure within communities and create employment opportunities.

President Joe Biden ended talks with a group of Republican senators on a big infrastructure package on Tuesday and started reaching out to senators from both parties in a new effort toward bipartisan compromise, setting a summer deadline for Congress to pass his top legislative priority.The president is walking away from talks with lead Republican negotiator Sen. Shelley Moore Capito after the two spoke Tuesday, but would welcome her in the new bipartisan group, according to an administrative official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private negotiations.Shortly after the Biden-Capito talks collapsed, 10 senators huddled late Thursday over pizza five Republicans, five Democrats emerging after three hours with some optimism their new effort could create a viable path forward, said a person familiar with the closed-door talks and granted anonymity to discuss them.At the same time, with anxiety running high as time slips by, Democrats are laying the groundwork to pass some or all of the ambitious package on their own. Biden conferred Tuesday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about launching the budget resolution process for Senate votes in July, the White House said."The President is committed to moving his economic legislation through Congress this summer, and is pursuing multiple paths to get this done," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.The breakdown in the White House's efforts with GOP senators comes after weeks of prolonged infrastructure talks between the president and Capito as the two sides failed to broker the divide over the scope of Biden's sweeping infrastructure investment and how to pay for it.The Republican senators offered a $928 billion proposal, which included about $330 billion in new spending but not as much as Biden's $1.7 trillion investment proposal for rebuilding the nation's roads, bridges, highways and other infrastructure, including Veterans Affairs hospitals and care centers.Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, a nonstarter for Republicans, and rejected the GOP senators' suggestion of tapping unspent COVID-19 aid money to fund the new infrastructure spending.In a statement, Capito said she was disappointed Biden ended the talks, but also expressed interest in ongoing bipartisan work."While I appreciate President Biden's willingness to devote so much time and effort to these negotiations, he ultimately chose not to accept the very robust and targeted infrastructure package, and instead, end our discussions," she said. "However, this does not mean bipartisanship isn't feasible."The White House confirmed President Biden spoke with Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy yesterday.They're leading a bipartisan group of senators working on their own infrastructure proposal.Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the bipartisan talks "good" but said it won't be "the only answer.""As a caucus, we will not be able to do all the things the country needs in a totally bipartisan way," Schumer said. "At the same time, we are pursuing the pursuit of reconciliation ... And it may well be that part of the bill thatll pass will be bipartisan, and part of it will be through reconciliation."House Democrats are moving forward on infrastructure.The House transportation and infrastructure committee will mark up a surface transportation bill that includes components of President Biden's American Jobs Plan.Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

The council voted 16-1 Monday night on a resolution that backs the ambitious proposal that’s currently estimated at $2.3 trillion, with about a $1.7 trillion allotment to fix the nation’s aging infrastructure. Ald. Dave Paff cast the dissenting vote.

Ald. Curt Wilson, the resolution’s primary sponsor, said the city has a number of infrastructure projects that could potentially benefit from funding in the jobs plan that would offset costs.

Potential projects

Wilson said among the city’s high priority capital projects are the:

Extension of Highway 158 (52nd Street) from 120th Avenue to 128th Avenue to serve 3,300 acres to be annexed from the Town of Paris in the near future (estimate not known).

Construction of streets and sidewalks in the proposed Kenosha Innovation Neighborhood at a cost of $20 million.

Revetment for five areas along the Lake Michigan shoreline, estimated at $19 million.

16th Avenue extension from 60th Street to 63rd Street, estimated at $3.1 million.

19th Avenue extension from 60th Street to 63rd Street, estimated at $3 million.

Bathrooms for various city parks, estimated at $100,000 to $300,000.

North harbor walkway, estimated at $1.2 million for design and construction costs.

Water utility for the Downtown redevelopment, estimated at $3.5 to $5 million.

Proposed future wastewater treatment plant expansion, estimated at upward of $100 million.

Program for replacing lead plumbing service lines throughout Kenosha estimated at $7 to $10 million.

Widening of Highway 58 (52nd Street) from Highway H to Highway 31 (Green Bay Road) (estimate not known).

Proposal for a new public works campus (estimate not known).

Additional salt storage and accompanying infrastructure for Kenosha’s west side (estimate not available).

“The president’s American Jobs Plan will help municipalities and communities like ours all over the country,” Wilson said, adding that the plan takes into consideration not only a wide range of infrastructure needs but also the creation of “good paying jobs for hundreds of thousands of Americans, and more.”

Wilson said recent polls showed “strong bipartisan support” among registered voters for the jobs plan, although Republicans in Congress are objecting to the high price tag and the fact that the bill includes funding for projects that the GOP believes fall outside the scope of traditional infrastructure needs.

“With that, I’m very optimistic that the parties in Washington, along with the White House, will finalize the terms of the American Jobs Plan sometime in the future,” Wilson said.

Jobs plan setback

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On Tuesday, however, the proposed jobs and infrastructure plan suffered a setback as negotiations between the White House and a U.S. Senate group led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., broke down. The White House has indicated a shift in focus to a proposal from a bipartisan Senate group led by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.

The bipartisan group released a $1.25 trillion proposal, which included $761.8 billion in new spending.

According to multiple reports, Biden earlier had indicated a willingness to reduce his version of the plan by more than $1 trillion, while the Republican group had increased their proposed new investments by just $150 billion.

A show of unity

Ald. David Bogdala offered a friendly amendment to Wilson’s resolution to include that the council supports the ongoing U.S. Senate negotiations for a bipartisan solution that would identify programs and methods of payments “for the benefit of all taxpayers.”

Wilson supported the amendment, which passed unanimously on a voice vote.

“We’re at a critical juncture, I feel, in our country, where it’s important to show that we are unified. To show bipartisanship, to show we can get things done,” Bogdala said. “I think this council has shown that over the course of the last several years.”

Bogdala said it’s important that the nation — and at the local level, the City Council — unite to support “needed infrastructure” throughout the country and the city.

“I think that it’s important that we make that statement here tonight that we support this plan and also that we support bipartisanship,” he said.

Ald. Shayna Griffin said it’s also something that residents and taxpayers want to see.

“We all are ready and invested in doing this,” she said.

Increase in taxes, debt a concern

Paff said he could not vote in favor of the resolution because he believes the American Jobs Plan would raise taxes and increase the country’s debt.

“Although it sounds good to have such a jobs bill like this, we never really see this come to fruition,” he said. “These monies get approved by Washington, and very little money goes back out to the community.”

Paff said he was also representing the many retirees on fixed incomes in his district who could not afford the additional taxes.

“For government to keep spending money like they are, it’s going to bankrupt America,” he said.

Once-in-a-generation opportunity

Ald. Dan Prozanski said the jobs plan was this generation’s opportunity to “make a huge impact in this country.”

“I think that a program the scale of the one that is being proposed here can be second only to the programs that were created during the Great Depression,” he said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a “devastating impact” on the country, Prozanski called the jobs plan “a way forward.”

“This is a way to fix crumbling infrastructure, bridges, roads,” he said. “One of the things that we hear every time we run for re-election is, ‘When are we going to fix the roads?’”

Prozanski added that improvement to infrastructure would pay “huge dividends” in the future.

“It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” he said.

SPECIAL REPORT: Forward Kenosha County -- A look at the development and innovation in our community

The past year could be described as one of unforeseen challenges, change and resourcefulness.

Kenosha County’s residents and business community faced a pandemic, project and economic slowdowns and civil unrest and yet still there were examples of positive and significant developments.

A list of major employers in Kenosha County compiled by the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, had 23 names on it in 2008. It now totals roughly 50 and is continuing to grow.

Making strategic, long-term investments in our infrastructure, the county laid the groundwork to attract dozens of major employers and thousands of jobs to the county. 

Attached are several stories that ran in the Sunday, March 21, special section, Forward Kenosha County. Look for the second part of the special section in the Sunday, March 28 edition of the Kenosha News.

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