The San Joaquin One Voice® advocacy effort led by the San Joaquin Council of Governments to draw critical funding for regional improvement projects may have encouraged federal lawmakers to support vital infrastructure legislation.
Led by SJCOG, the One Voice® coalition of leaders and advocates meet with federal officials to seek funding for projects crucial to improving infrastructure and transportation in San Joaquin County, including top priorities such as work at the State Route 99/120 interchange in Manteca.
“I’m going to give full credit to the San Joaquin COG (virtual) One Voice® trip for having jumpstarted all the infrastructure budget reconciliation discussions and the very busy July and August that we’ve had thus far after you came to town and reiterated the importance of getting surface transportation programs reauthorized,” Lynn Jacquez of CJ Lake LLC told the SJCOG Board of Directors only somewhat jokingly. “I think they were very, very useful meetings.”
CJ Lake is a Washington, D.C., firm focusing on legal, public policy and government relations services, and supports One Voice® in the nation’s capital. Jacquez briefed the SJCOG board on legislation that could provide the means for vital infrastructure improvements across the country, including the San Joaquin region.
“It is far too early to know exactly what it means for infrastructure improvements in San Joaquin County, but the hope is real that we will be able to fund necessary projects,” said SJCOG Executive Director Diane Nguyen. “It’s very important that we continue our One Voice® advocacy to secure necessary funding for projects that improve the quality of life for those who live in the region.”
In a memo to SJCOG earlier this month, CJ Lake wrote that, “The legislation would provide funding to address infrastructure needs at airports, ports and waterways, drinking and wastewater systems, the electric grid, broadband, resiliency, as well as a five-year surface transportation authorization, which would provide funding for roads, bridges, transit and passenger rail.”
A House bill included “member designated projects” and four of eight projects highlighted by the One Voice® effort were included. Jacquez said the timing of the One Voice® meetings was key to those projects being included.
“I think that’s a pretty significant return considering this is the first year of what are affectionately so-called earmarks,” said Jacquez. “Many of our priorities from a SJCOG-supported perspective were included in that House bill.”
The projects were not included in the Senate bill, said Jacquez, but could be later in the legislative process.
The work now is to complete a bill before the surface transportation program expires on Sept. 30, said Jacquez. A vote on the bipartisan bill is expected Sept. 27 before the program expires.
Jacquez closed with more praise of the One Voice® effort.
“We conducted the One Voice® trip virtually,” she said. “It was very well attended, and we greatly appreciated the board and the staff interest and activity and engagement in it. It’s not an easy platform to do. We all would prefer walking the halls (of the U.S. Capitol) with you all.”
She added that many lawmakers are not taking outside meetings yet because of the persistency of COVID-19 and the Delta variant, which means it is still to be determined if the One Voice® delegation can make the planned in-person advocacy trip in October.
Visit sjcog.org to view the video of the meeting. The report by Jacquez begins at about the 7:10 minute mark.