Kathleen Meil

Grant Provost

Mary Kaszynski

In today’s political climate, it’s tough to find agreement. It’s nearly impossible when it comes to transformative federal legislation.

But as representatives of environmental, labor, and veterans groups, finding common ground on President Biden’s Build Back Better Act wasn’t just easy; it was simply common sense.

This once-in-a-generation economic proposal — the so-called budget reconciliation bill currently being debated in Congress — contains necessary funding to tackle the climate crisis, expand good-paying union jobs, and improve outdated veteran hospital infrastructure. Maine’s environment, skilled workers, and veterans stand to benefit tremendously from this legislation.

The Senate strongly supported a recent bipartisan investment in our nation’s ailing infrastructure, which is a great start in addressing our crumbling bridges and roads — but this legislation does not go nearly far enough. The substantive Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework must be paired with the president’s Build Back Better Act if we are to realistically prepare Maine’s communities for climate change, increase employment opportunities for skilled workers, and take care of Mainers who have dedicated their lives to protecting our nation.

We need Maine’s entire federal delegation to help make sure both bills become law.

In terms of climate change preparedness, the Build Back Better Act allocates funds toward acting on the crisis of our lifetimes at the scale that the science demands. The bill supports investments in electric vehicle infrastructure to support both vehicle manufacturing and the construction of publicly accessible charging locations. We know that the transition to renewable energies will put pressure on our current energy grid to deliver reliable electricity; the Build Back Better Act specifically allocates funds to modernize grids across the country to support this necessary transition — all while taking measures to reduce consumer costs and increasing reliable delivery during extreme weather events.

Additionally, the legislation allocates money toward planning and installing solar projects that serve low-income households and multi-family affordable housing complexes.

For Maine’s labor force, the Build Back Better Act is a win, too. The bill invests nearly $80 billion in workforce development programs that allow workers to train while they earn a paycheck. In 2020, Maine lost over 1,200 jobs in the clean energy sector, including the solar, wind, energy efficiency, and clean vehicle industries. The Build Back Better agenda includes investments in clean energy that would give clean energy workers — especially those in central and northern Maine — a wage boost and return clean energy jobs to pre-pandemic levels.

This legislation is the key to getting millions of people back to work in new good-paying jobs in the clean energy economy, while tackling climate change.

The Build Back Better Act also invests and supports veterans in Maine and across the country. The legislation includes funding to help finance necessary renovations needed for VA medical centers and provide nearly 1,000 new residency positions at VA centers. Lack of staff and antiquated medical equipment have a direct and negative impact on Maine veterans. With over 50,000 civilian veterans in central and northern Maine alone, the Build Back Better Act offers the kind of financial support that the veteran community has been lacking.

With the national conversation dominated by division — between conservatives, moderates, and progressives; between the House and the Senate; between the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and the Build Back Better Act — our unequivocal unity may seem remarkable. But when we set aside our differences and focus on what’s at stake, common ground is just common sense. We cannot wait any longer to address the climate crisis, invest in our union workforce, and ensure veterans are cared for properly — and we can only do that together.

A more sustainable planet, thriving economy, and stronger communities are just a few votes away from becoming a reality. We urge Maine’s entire federal delegation to support the Build Back Better Act alongside the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. We have the power to truly transform our nation with these pivotal bills. We hope they see it that way, too.

Kathleen Meil is director of policy and partnerships with Maine Conservation Voters. Grant Provost is a business agent with Ironworkers Local 7 in Maine. Mary Kaszynski is director of government relations with VoteVets.


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