Gerald R. Ford photo

Veto of a Public Works Employment Bill.

February 13, 1976

To the House of Representatives:

I am returning without my approval H.R. 5247, the Public Works Employment Act of 1975.

Supporters of this bill claim that it represents a solution to the problem of unemployment. This is simply untrue.

The truth is that this bill would do little to create jobs for the unemployed. Moreover, the bill has so many deficiencies and undesirable provisions that it would do more harm than good. While it is represented as the solution to our unemployment problems, in fact it is little more than an election year pork barrel. Careful examination reveals the serious deficiencies in H.R. 5247.

First, the cost of producing jobs under this bill would be intolerably high, probably in excess of $25,000 per job.

Second, relatively few new jobs would be created. The bill's sponsors estimate that H.R. 5247 would create 600,000 to 800,000 new jobs. Those claims are badly exaggerated. Our estimates within the Administration indicate that at most some 250,000 jobs would be created--and that would be over a period of several years. The peak impact would come in late 1977 or 1978, and would come to no more than 100,000 to 120,000 new jobs. This would represent barely a one tenth of one percent improvement in the unemployment rate.

Third, this will create almost no new jobs in the immediate future, when those jobs are needed. With peak impact on jobs in late 1977 or early 1978, this legislation will be adding stimulus to the economy at precisely the wrong time: when the recovery will already be far advanced.

Fourth, Title II of the bill provides preferential treatment to those units of government with the highest taxes without any distinction between those jurisdictions which have been efficient in holding down costs and those that have not.

Fifth, under this legislation it would be almost impossible to assure taxpayers that these dollars are being responsibly and effectively spent.

Effective allocation of over $3 billion for public works on a project-by-project basis would take many months or years. The provision that project requests be approved automatically unless the Commerce Department acts within 60 days will preclude any useful review of the request, and prevent a rational allocation of funds.

Sixth, this bill would create a new urban renewal program less than two years after the Congress replaced a nearly identical program--as well as other categorical grant programs--with a broader, more flexible Community Development block grant program.

I recognize there is merit in the argument that some areas of the country are suffering from exceptionally high rates of unemployment and that the Federal Government should provide assistance. By budgets for fiscal years 1976 and 1977 do, in fact, seek to provide such assistance.

Beyond my own budget recommendations, I believe that in addressing the immediate needs of some of our cities hardest hit by the recession, another measure already introduced in the Congress, H.R. 11860, provides a far more reasonable and constructive approach than the bill I am vetoing.

H.R. 11860 targets funds on those areas with the highest unemployment so that they may undertake high priority activities at a fraction of the cost of H.R. 5247. The funds would be distributed exclusively under an impartial formula as opposed to the pork barrel approach represented by the bill I am returning today. Moreover, H.R. 11860 builds upon the successful Community Development Block Grant program. That program is in place and working well, thus permitting H.R. 11860 to be administered without the creation of a new bureaucracy. I would be glad to consider this legislation more favorably should the Congress formally act upon it as an alternative to H.R. 5247.

We must not allow our debate over H.R. 5247 to obscure one fundamental point: the best and most effective way to create new jobs is to pursue balanced economic policies that encourage the growth of the private sector without risking a new round of inflation. This is the core of my economic policy, and I believe that the steady improvements in the economy over the last half year on both the unemployment and inflation fronts bear witness to its essential wisdom. I intend to continue this basic approach because it is working.

My proposed economic policies are expected to foster the creation of 2 to 2.5 million new private sector jobs in 1976 and more than 2 million additional jobs in 1977. These will be lasting, productive jobs, not temporary jobs payrolled by the American taxpayer.

This is a policy of balance, realism, and common sense. It is an honest policy which does not promise a quick fix. My program includes:

--Large and permanent tax reductions that will leave more money where it can do the most good: in the hands of the American people;

--Tax incentives for the construction of new plants and equipment in areas of high unemployment;

--Tax incentives to encourage more low and middle income Americans to invest in common stock;

--More than $21 billion in outlays for important public works such as energy facilities, wastewater treatment plants, roads, and veterans' hospitals representing a 17 percent increase over the previous fiscal year;

--Tax incentives for investment in residential mortgages by financial institutions to stimulate capital for home building.

I have proposed a Budget which addresses the difficult task of restraining the pattern of excessive growth in Federal spending. Basic to job creation in the private sector is reducing the ever-increasing demands of the Federal government for funds. Federal government borrowing to support deficit spending reduces the amount of money available for productive investment at a time when many experts are predicting that we face a shortage of private capital in the future. Less investment means fewer new jobs and less production per worker.

Last month, under our balanced policies, seasonally adjusted employment rose by 800,000. That total is almost three times as large as the number of jobs that would be produced by this legislation and the jobs those men and women found will be far more lasting and productive than would be created through another massive public works effort.

I ask the Congress to act quickly on my tax and budget proposals, which I believe will provide the jobs for the unemployed that we all want.


The White House,

February 13, 1976.

Note: The House of Representatives overrode the President's veto on February 19. On the same day, the Senate sustained the veto.

Gerald R. Ford, Veto of a Public Works Employment Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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