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Democrats join labor, enviro groups to push for federal spending on public transit, electric vehicles

September 3, 2021, 9:37 am
U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (Woodruff photo).

Top Colorado Democrats joined leaders from local labor unions and environmental groups on Wednesday to call on the federal government to combat climate change with historic levels of spending on public transit and electric vehicles.

“We are living in a time of climate crisis, and we recognize that we need to do better, we need to do more,” said Chris Markuson, Colorado director for the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental organizations.

BlueGreen Alliance members rallied outside Denver’s Union Station in support of climate-friendly transportation spending on Wednesday morning, as Democrats in Congress continue negotiations over a $3.5 trillion budget bill. The bill, which is expected to pass through the budget reconciliation process and form the centerpiece of Democrats’ climate agenda, follows the Senate’s passage of a bipartisan package of $550 billion in new infrastructure spending last month.

The reconciliation bill is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to boost efforts to fight climate change nationwide, said Kayla Calkin, political director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund.

“It’s about a comprehensive, equity-driven American infrastructure plan that puts labor and climate front and center,” Calkin said.

“It’s not just about infrastructure, it’s not just about climate change — it’s about jobs,” said Sen. John Hickenlooper, part of a bipartisan group of 22 senators who reached an agreement on the infrastructure bill, which is still pending in the House of Representatives as budget talks continue. “It’s about building an economy that’s going to include everyone, and lift up the state of Colorado and the United States of America.”

Hickenlooper repeated his call for a carbon-pricing mechanism to be included in the reconciliation bill, which he said would “really incentivize and motivate our economy to focus more on using energy more wisely.”

Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Lafayette and the only member of Colorado’s congressional delegation to have endorsed the progressive-backed Green New Deal, said that many elements of that proposal are included in the framework of the budget bill.

“The question is — can we make sure that they are intact and that they get to the president’s desk?” Neguse said in an interview.

“Fundamentally, (the budget bill) is a climate bill, in my view,” he added. “And I’m unwilling to sacrifice the climate provisions in that bill. Because I’m very concerned that we have very little time to accomplish what is needed to avert the most disastrous consequences of climate change.”

Dennis Dougherty, executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, echoed those sentiments at Wednesday’s event, urging members of Congress to follow through on their commitment to fight climate change and support American workers.

“Congress must help. This is a generational opportunity, and they have to deliver,” Dougherty said. “We need every cent of that $3.5 trillion coming through.”

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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