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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis

Remarks for the Honorable Hilda L. Solis
American Jobs Act Press Conference
Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility in Milwaukee
Friday, September 30, 2011

Good afternoon everyone. Thank you all for that warm welcome. It's great to be in Milwaukee.

It has been three weeks since President Obama introduced the American Jobs Act to Congress. Today, we gather here on Jones Island to talk about how his plan will help create jobs and economic growth here in the Badger State.

The President's plan includes a major effort to build up, repair and modernize America's decaying infrastructure. Across this country, 2 million construction workers lost their jobs in the recession after the housing boom went bust. Some of them are your neighbors.

Back in 2007, there were more than 120,000 construction workers in Wisconsin. Today, that number is down to about 87,000. Let's put these people back to work. They're ready! They've been waiting for too long! Congress needs to pass this jobs bill right now.

We're here on Jones Island today, because we wanted to show the kinds of innovative public infrastructure projects that would be eligible for funding under the American Jobs Act.

The American Jobs Act will put people back to work rebuilding and revitalizing Wisconsin. It will create more jobs, better bridges and safer streets. But it will do so much more than that.

We're living in a time of rapid technological change. Upgrading our infrastructure can also mean using renewable energy to lower consumers' utility bills and create a more livable planet. That's the promise of the new facility here on Jones Island.

Milwaukee has built a reputation for national leadership in pioneering new ways to manage its wastewater treatment systems. This project generates energy from landfill gas that's created when garbage decomposes. In doing so, it uses just half the energy consumed by natural gas — reducing harmful fossil fuel emissions.

Special equipment cleans the landfill gas before it travels through a 19-mile underground pipeline to turbines, which convert it into energy. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District will save tens of millions of dollars as a result of this new process. These savings will be passed on to the consumer. Building the new pipeline will create jobs for Wisconsin construction workers, as well as engineers, architects, designers, and project managers.

More constructions jobs, lower utility bills, and less pollution. That's what I call a win-win-win for Wisconsin families.

The American Jobs Act would establish a National Infrastructure Bank to support promising renewable energy projects, and local initiatives like this one will be eligible to apply for federal funding.

But support for renewable energy projects is just one piece of the puzzle. The American Jobs Act would employ workers to fix Wisconsin's bridges. More than 1,100 bridges in Wisconsin are considered structurally deficient. That's 1 in every 12 bridges across this state. It's past time we fix those bridges. Broken bridges make your commutes longer — and they cost our businesses billions of dollars. Repairing them will mean safer transportation routes and faster flowing commerce.

If Congress passes the American Jobs Act, Wisconsin would receive more than $575 million to fund highway and transit modernization projects. This would put roughly 7,500 Wisconsin workers back on the job. That's why Congress should pass this jobs bill right now; this should be a no-brainer.

The ideas in the President's plan are all things that both Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past. There's no reason to withdraw that support now. The next presidential election is 14 away, and unemployed Wisconsin workers don't have 14 months to wait.

Everything in the American Jobs Act is paid for without adding a dime to our national deficit. Right now, local governments are laying off teachers, police officers and firefighters because of the tough budget environment. The American Jobs Act would give Wisconsin more than $536 million to reverse the layoffs of up to 7,400 teachers and first responders. Congress should pass this bill so we can keep our public-sector workers on the job.

America is laying teachers off, while our competitors abroad are hiring them up. That makes no sense. It's unfair to our kids. And it's unfair to our future. The American Jobs Act would put more teachers back in the classroom where they belong. It also would invest more than $369 million to modernize Wisconsin's public schools and another $80 million to upgrade this state's community colleges.

Congress should pass this bill to provide incentives for Wisconsin small businesses to start hiring again. The American Jobs Act cuts their payroll tax in half so they can hire our veterans, older workers and the long-term unemployed. It also cuts the payroll tax in half for workers. This means a tax cut of about $1,600 for the average Wisconsin working families — money they can spend to feed their families and support local businesses. This is the jolt our economy needs.

We know there are millions of unemployed Americans and young people who are looking for work and striking out. The American Jobs Act would extend unemployment insurance, so 58,000 Wisconsinites can keep their benefits and make ends meet while they look for work.

The bill would support initiatives to help the long-term unemployed keep their skills sharp and get a foot in the door.It would also provide summer jobs to more than 7,100 Wisconsin youth — opportunities to get their first paycheck and job skills they need for life.

Concerned citizens should talk to their friends and family and call their elected officials about this job-creation bill. Email them, tweet them, find them on Facebook. We need you to lift your voices in your workplaces, in your neighborhoods and at your churches. We need you to help us build a movement for change outside of Washington, one our opponents can't stop.

Together, I believe we can do that. The future of Wisconsin, and the future of our country, depends on your involvement. Thank you.