Construction industry raises millions to fight California gas-tax repeal measure
- Construction companies and industry groups have raised millions to defeat California's Proposition 6, a measure that would repeal the state gas tax lawmakers approved last year to help pay for an ambitious $52 billion infrastructure plan, according to the Los Angeles Times.
- The Times analyzed donor and state transportation department data and reported that, during the past five years, the California DOT paid $2.7 billion to the top 10 construction-firm donors to the "No on Proposition 6" campaign. Those companies paid a total of $3.6 million to defeat gas tax repeal efforts. Donors to the cause include Granite Construction, which performed $955 million of state infrastructure work during the past five years and contributed $1 million to the anti-Proposition 6 cause. In addition to Granite, cement supplier Lehigh Hanson ($500,000 donation), HNTB Corp. ($500,000), Lane Construction Corp. ($200,000) and Ames Construction ($100,000) helped the campaign raise $43 million. Labor groups, who fear a potential loss of jobs that would be supported by the gas tax, have donated $12 million.
- In contrast, proponents of Proposition 6 have raised only $3.4 million. Carl DeMaio, Proposition 6 campaign chairman, told the Times that construction industry donations have created a conflict of interest and called the amounts contributed "obscene." James H. Roberts, president and chief executive of Granite, said if Proposition 6 wins at the ballot box, it could prevent them from expanding their California infrastructure operation, which employs about 2,000 people.
The construction industry takes an active role in U.S. politics because lawmakers at all levels of government have the power to enact rules and regulations that can either harm or benefit contractors and vendors. A recent Engineering News-Record report showed that construction companies and industry groups, as of Sept. 24, had raised a total of $156.5 million for their favored candidates — $58.7 million by the private sector and $97.8 million by trade unions.
Tamko Building Products and Northwest Excavation were the top private-industry donors, both giving in excess of $2 million, while union carpenters ($16.4 million), laborers ($5.8 million) and operating engineers ($5.2 million) were the biggest contributors among trade organizations. Republicans won the lion's share of private money, while Democrats were the recipients of the bulk of union donations.
Many contractors, developers and other industry groups are also big on lobbying. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the construction industry spent almost $31 million, as of Aug. 28, on federal lobbying efforts, with building materials and equipment companies spending the most — $9.7 million — followed by general contractors, which spent approximately $7.9 million. In those two categories, Caterpillar ($1.7 million) and Fluor ($2.7 million) had the biggest lobbying outlays.
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