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Morning Brief: Congress Passes Ninth Temporary Extension to Highway Bill

by Renewing America Staff
March 30, 2012

Section of I-35W Mississippi River Bridge north of Minneapolis, Minnesota that collapsed on August 1, 2007 (Eric Miller/Courtesy Reuters). Section of I-35W Mississippi River Bridge north of Minneapolis, Minnesota that collapsed on August 1, 2007 (Eric Miller/Courtesy Reuters).

With the end of the March deadline looming, Congress passed the ninth extension to the current highway funding bill (NYT). The bill extends construction funding and the federal gas tax until the end of June but does nothing to resolve the conflict between House and Senate versions of a new transportation infrastructure bill to replace one that expired in September of 2009. The Senate recently passed a two-year, $109 billion version, while the House has yet to vote on its five-year, $260 billion proposal. Debates rage on a host of issues such as overall costs, funding for public transit, and new oil drilling on public lands.

NRC Expected to Approve New Reactor Construction

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is expected to approve the construction of two new nuclear reactors today (BusinessWeek). This expansion project for the Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina—and a similar one approved earlier this year for the Vogtle plant in Georgia—are the first nuclear construction projects to receive NRC approval since the 1970s. Both employ Westinghouse’s AP1000, the first Generation III+ reactor design approved by the NRC.

Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

International Trade and Investment

Foxconn Pledges Reform

After a broad inspection by the Fair Labor Association found widespread violations of Chinese laws and industry norms, Foxconn, a major supplier to Apple Inc. (NYT), has vowed reforms. Over the past few months, independent investigations and labor rights organizations have highlighted harsh working conditions at Foxconn. Apple has been especially criticized for failing to oversee Foxconn’s labor practices, though the Chinese manufacturing giant supplies most major technology firms. Foxconn is China’s largest private employer, with over 1.2 million employees, and its reforms may spark broader changes to Chinese labor conditions.

Proposed Policies Threaten Foreign Investment in India

Some $700 million of foreign investment left the Indian stock market over the past few days in reaction to controversial tax proposals (WSJ). To combat a budget deficit of nearly 6 percent of GDP, the proposed national budget allows retroactive taxation back to 1962 on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity by foreigners, nearly doubles taxes on the oil production of a UK firm, and requires firms to prove they have not structured deals to avoid taxes. These measures, as well as recent criminal proceedings against Google and Facebook executives for content posted by Indian users, and stalled reforms on regulations and tariffs, have challenged foreigners interested in investing in India.

International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.

Education and Human Capital

Report Identifies Five Long-Term Employment Trends

The consulting firm McKinsey & Company released a report describing five long-term employment trends in advanced economies. The authors argue that current problems in the labor markets of developed countries cannot be fixed with the same policy tools that worked in the past. Trends challenging national leaders include how new technology changes the nature of work, growing income disparity and shifts in what skills are needed, where workers are needed, and who is part of the labor pool.

Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.

Steven J. Markovich holds an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

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