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Mayors Promote Jobs, Infrastructure, Tax Priorities with Vice President Biden/Congressional Leaders

By Ed Somers and USCM Staff
December 3, 2012

One day after Congress convened for its lame duck session, The U.S. Conference of Mayors leadership spent a day on Capitol Hill and in the White House pushing for a balanced, pro-growth jobs and deficit reduction agenda.

Under the leadership of Conference of Mayors President Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Conference of Mayors Vice President Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, a delegation of 13 Conference of Mayors leadership mayors met with Vice President Joe Biden in the White House, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team, the Senate Democratic Caucus, Senator Marco Rubio (FL) and other key leaders.

As stated in a recently released bi-partisan letter – now signed by 163 mayors – the Conference of Mayors has called on Congress to work out a budget deal that avoids the devastating impact that domestic discretionary and defense sequestration cuts would have on local communities and their residents.

After extensive discussions between the mayors and Conference of Mayors staff, the following key messages were developed for lobby day:

  • Cities are the engines of the U.S. economy. We are home to 90 percent of GDP and wages; and 86 percent of jobs. In addition, 92 percent of the nation’s future growth in the economy and jobs will come from cities and their metros.

  • Mayors support a long-term balanced budget solution, not sequestration that would slash both domestic discretionary and defense programs.

  • Americans are still reeling from a slow recovery and the top focus must be on job creation.

  • Mayors have been working with businesses and the private sector to forge economic partnerships locally. But it is not enough. A more aggressive answer to jobs creation is needed.

  • A “Grand Deal” on the budget and expiring tax cuts should contain an infrastructure jobs package, including transportation, energy independence (Energy Block Grant) and water (grants and financing options), including storm mitigation. These funds should be “parked” outside any domestic discretionary caps and be multi-year. In addition to grants, this can be achieved through funding the “Infrastructure Bank”.

  • A “Grand Deal” must preserve the tax-exemption for municipal bonds.

  • A “Grand Deal” must preserve the tools cities need to leverage private sector investment and create jobs, including the Community Development Block Grant, workforce training, port development and water system modernization.

  • Congress should pass the bi-partisan Marketplace Fairness Act, which would level the playingfield and allow for the collection of sales taxes on internet commerce – which could provide states and cities with an estimated $23 billion annually.

  • Congress should pass a long-term transportation bill (six-year renewal plan), with more funds going directly to cities.

  • Mayors must have a seat at the table and be constantly consulted to ensure that no unintended consequences result from the “budget deal.”

    Vice President Biden

    Biden hosted the mayors and Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran for an hour-long meeting in the Roosevelt Room in the White House to cap off the lobby day.

    The Vice President and the mayors discussed a variety of issues related to reaching a budget deal, including all the priorities identified by the mayors over the two days of meetings. He urged the mayors to help push for extension of the middle-class tax cuts, which he said could easily be done prior to the end of the year.

    Pelosi Team

    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) hosted the mayors in her private conference room for a wide-ranging discussion on jobs and deficit reduction. In the meeting were:

  • Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA)

  • Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD)

  • Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC)

  • House Budget Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (MD)

  • Urban Caucus Chair Chaka Fattah (PA)

  • Representative David Cicilline (RI)

    Senate Democratic Caucus

    Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee Chair Mark Begich (AK) hosted a meeting for the mayors to meet with all members of the Democratic Caucus. During the meeting, optimism was expressed by several Senators that the Mainstreet Fairness Act – which has garnered strong bipartisan support in Congress - could be included in the big budget package.

    Joining the meeting were:

  • Senator Mark Begich (AK)

  • Incoming Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (WA)

  • Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN)

  • Senator Al Franken (MN)

  • Senator Bob Casey (PA)

  • Senator Mark Pryor (AR)

  • Senator Robert Menendez (NJ)

    Senator Rubio

    Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown arranged for himself and Smith to meet with Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio spoke very favorably about key block grant programs including CDBG.

    Conference of Mayors Delegation

  • Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, PA, President

  • Scott Smith of Mesa, AZ, Vice President

  • Joseph P. Riley, Jr. of Charleston, SC, Past President

  • Donald L. Plusquellic of Akron, OH, Past President

  • Steve Benjamin of Columbia, SC

  • Michael Bissonnette of Chicopee, MA

  • Alvin Brown of Jacksonville, FL

  • Michael Hancock of Denver, CO

  • Patrick Henry Hays of North Little Rock, AR

  • Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, MD

  • R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis, MN

  • Brian C. Wahler, Piscataway, NJ

  • Setti Warren of Newton, MA

  • Tom Cochran, USCM CEO and Executive Director