Associated General Contractors Detail Efforts to Spur Agenda in Congress
SAN JUAN — The Associated General Contractors of America, Puerto Rico chapter (AGC-PR), held its monthly luncheon this week and discussed its efforts to sway the Financial Oversight & Management Board into carrying out some 200 vital infrastructure projects costing around $3.7 billion and which would create some 75,000 jobs on the island.
Toward this end, the industry group brought Jeff Shoaf, chief AGC lobbyist in Washington, D.C., to give an update on how Congress—specifically a congressional task force on economic development that was created by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act (Promesa) alongside the fiscal oversight board—is taking AGC-PR’s proposal into account.
At the luncheon, AGC-PR President Neyssa Varela gave an overview of the association’s proposal to the task force, which focuses on infrastructure projects to be addressed under Title 5 of Promesa. The bevy of projects included in the proposal—divided into transportation, housing, water and electricity—aim to provide a short-term boost to the local construction industry, which has been among the most affected by the island’s decade-plus economic recession.
During his turn, Shoaf gave a realistic view on what to expect from Congress in the following weeks. In short, a few key steps still remain before the congressional task force—and in particular its chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch—can prepare some legislative proposals during the tumultuous electoral season.
“[The task force’s] schedule is pretty compressed,” said Shoaf, who was joined on stage by Jorge San Miguel, a partner at Ferraiuoli LLC and an expert on the Promesa Act. He added that one of the main reasons that the task force’s initial deadline to deliver a preliminary report Sept. 4 was pushed back to Oct. 4 was that the group received 335 proposal submissions from groups such as AGC-PR’s. “The fact [that the task force had the AGC-PR proposal] by August was terrific, especially considering the crunch time that they have,” Shoaf said. “The proposals also gave a lot of options, which is something Congress loves.”
Shoaf went on to remark that the task force has other priorities in mind that it wants to address first. “They’re looking at implementing an earned [income] tax credit and child tax credit, [as well as the] Medicare-Medicaid [disparity]; those are action items,” Shoaf noted, adding that the next few weeks will be key in finding out whether AGC-PR’s requests will go forward in any capacity.
Shoaf, who has spent 20 years with the AGC and is currently the group’s senior executive director of government relations, previously worked in Congress for nearly eight years with Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) and the House Transportation Committee.