Republicans and Democrats both have to drive on our crumbling roads, walk on our cracked sidewalks and squeeze like sardines into our antiquated buses and subway cars.
Our post-World War II infrastructure is showing its age. The slow decay is all around us. Sometimes it just inconveniences us, as rusting water pipes burst and flood streets or aging trains stall out on the tracks. Other times, it puts us in mortal danger, as the Minneapolis bridge did when it collapsed, killing 13 people during evening rush hour in August of 2007.
Infrastructure improvements should not be about ideology. They are one of the basic elements of a robust economy and provide the engine for economic growth through “shovel ready” jobs. That’s why it is encouraging to see Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) announce recently that they’re introducing the BUILD Act, which would create a National Infrastructure Bank.
The $10 billion initial investment will hopefully spur a private construction boom and create thousands of jobs in the process. It will show the the world that America is ready to make the investments necessary to move its infrastructure into the 21st century.
Here is the statement from Sen. Kerry’s press office:
“This is a bi-partisan moment to make a once bi-partisan issue bi-partisan once again,” said Sen. Kerry. “Democrats and Republicans, business and labor, are now united to create an American infrastructure bank to leverage private investment, make America the world’s builders once again, and close the deficit in our infrastructure investments. The BUILD Act will create good jobs, strengthen our competitiveness, and do more with less. Most of all, this bill breaks a partisan stalemate to get America back in the game. When you’ve got a Massachusetts Democrat, a Texas Republican, the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO preaching from the same hymnal, you’ll find a sweet spot that can translate into a major legislative step forward.”
“I have been working to overhaul our nation’s aging infrastructure for nearly 20 years. This national infrastructure bank is an innovative way to leverage private-public partnerships and maximize private funding to address our water, transportation, and energy infrastructure needs. It is essential to think outside the box as we work to solve national challenges, particularly in this fiscal crisis. We must be creative to meet the needs of our country and to spur economic development and job growth while protecting taxpayers from new federal spending as much as possible,” said Sen. Hutchison, who served on the Commission to Promote Investment in America’s Infrastructure in 1993 as State Treasurer of Texas and is the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
“The United States is spending less than two-percent of its GDP on infrastructure, while India spends five-percent and China spends nine-percent,” said Sen. Warner. “As a matter of global competitiveness, we need to find additional ways to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, and this bank will help us strike the right balance between near-term discipline and investment in future growth.”
“A national infrastructure bank is a great place to start securing the funding we need to increase our mobility, create jobs, and enhance our global competitiveness,” said Donohue. “With a modest initial investment of $10 billion, a national infrastructure bank could leverage up to $600 billion in private investments to repair, modernize, and expand our ailing infrastructure system. While private capital is badly needed, we must also recognize our public financing mechanism is broken. Receipts to the Highway Trust Fund have fallen dramatically, funds are being diverted to non-infrastructure projects, and the gas tax has not been increased in 17 years. We need a multiyear highway bill to meet immediate needs, but we have to figure out a way to ensure we have adequate public investments for years to come.”
The Building and Upgrading Infrastructure for Long-Term Development (BUILD) Act would establish an American Infrastructure Financing Authority (AIFA) – a kind of infrastructure bank – to complement our existing infrastructure funding. This institution, which would provide loans and loan guarantees, would be both fiscally responsible and robust enough to address America’s needs.