Ben Cardin - Senator for Maryland

HOW WE CAN CREATE JOBS AND HELP OUR NATION’S STRUGGLING CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

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By Senator Ben Cardin

The Great Recession has taken a serious toll on our economy.  With employment stalled in the nine percent range, consumer demand down and businesses hesitant to hire, Americans are truly concerned about how we will resuscitate our ailing economy.  There is only one way to do that and it’s by creating more jobs.

Jobs must be our primary focus right now and I have introduced legislation that will help create up to 40,000 new jobs nationwide in the construction and manufacturing industries -- industries that have been particularly hard hit by this recession.

My bill – the Energy-Efficient Cool Roof Jobs Act, S. 1575 – has bipartisan support and will provide economic incentives to accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient roofs.   In fact, because it takes only 30 days or so to order and install an energy-efficient roof, my measure would provide an immediate shot in the arm to the construction industry.

It works this way: the current tax code acts as an obstacle to retrofitting old roofs with energy-efficient ones because generally commercial roofs are depreciated over 39 years.  My legislation would shorten the depreciation schedule to 20 years for roofs that meet certain energy-efficiency standards and that are retrofitted over the next two years.  By shortening the depreciation schedule, we would reduce the amount of tax that businesses would otherwise have to pay.  This change will create more jobs by encouraging the construction of new roofs and by putting more cash in the hands of businesses.

This bill is what I call “a win-win” – it will create new jobs, improve the energy efficiency of commercial properties and it will help the construction industry, which has suffered a loss of one out of three jobs in this recession.  It’s also good tax policy because the average lifespan of a typical commercial roof is only 17 years and this legislation will correct an inequity in the tax code by aligning the depreciation period closer to the actual life-span of the commercial roof.

A close look at the impact of this recession on the construction industry is alarming. In July, a report by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation found that 14.1 percent of the 2010 unemployment insurance claims were from workers associated with the construction industry, making it the largest source of unemployment insurance claims in the state.  Nationwide, the construction industry lost 2.2 million jobs because of the economic downturn.

I believe my proposal is a common sense approach to our current economic downturn and one that achieves several goals – it gets Americans back to work, it replaces aging commercial roofs with ones that are more energy efficient, and it helps to reduce future energy costs.   I definitely think it’s a winner.

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