ANOTHER summer is almost upon us - and the US Senate has yet to act on important legislation that could put thousands of young people to work. Not in dead-end federal jobs. But conservation jobs: planting forests; soil enrichment; cleaning rivers and streams - in short, legitimate summer jobs.
The House, by a top-heavy 301 vote (including 70 Republicans), passed legislation a year ago to create a new American Conservation Corps. The corps would in effect be a successor, although a somewhat less paramilitary successor, to the old CCC - the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. Yet, despite support from business, labor, and environmental groups, the Senate has been dragging its heels. The Senate should pass the measure.
Reasons for the delay in the Senate vary. The legislation, passed in a Senate committee, has been kept from a floor vote, partly because of administration opposition. Some conservatives believe the legislation would be too expensive and would not further meaningful job skills. The Senate bill would cost $200 million annually over three years. The more expensive House-passed bill would cost $300 million annually over six years.
There is also a nagging feeling on the part of supporters that part of the opposition may be racial. Many of the youths involved would be minority youths from cities, although working in rural areas.
Whatever, there seems little justification for further delay. California has a somewhat similar conservation program that has proven effective. Much land restoration work is needed throughout the United States. And youth unemployment remains high, particularly for minority youths. The jobs measure would employ over 100,000 young people - 50,000 during the summer, 56,000 year-round.
Let's get the bill signed into law before another summer is old history.