Romer: Why the infrastructure bill matters
Last week, Congress proved bipartisan solutions are still possible. The bipartisan infrastructure bill bridges partisan divides; 70% of voters support infrastructure investment and 69 U.S. Senators voted in favor of the Infrastructure Investment & Job Act.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is meaningful, durable legislation that will benefit all Americans by creating millions of jobs, improving global competitiveness, and adding trillions of dollars in economic growth at a time when we need it most.
Infrastructure investment is needed more now than ever. This bill is the single largest investment in bridges since the construction of the Interstate Highway System. It will build thousands of miles of new transmission lines to facilitate the transition to cleaner energy. It will connect 14 million Americans to reliable high-speed internet.
There are more than a few myths about this bill, including some who state that as little as 10% of the spending is “real” infrastructure. This is physical infrastructure; it does not include any social spending or non-physical infrastructure. This package includes $550 billion of new infrastructure spending: $110 billion for roads and bridges, $65 billion for broadband, $65 billion for strengthening the electric grid, supporting the development of next-generation energy technologies, and strengthening critical mineral supply chains, $54 billion for water infrastructure, $46 billion for climate-resilient infrastructure, $25 billion for airport improvements, $47 billion for public transportation, and $17.4 billion for coastal, inland and land ports, and waterways.
That’s a lot of money. Fortunately, it is paid for. The spending package is paid for in part by tapping $210 billion in unspent COVID-19 aid and $53 billion in unemployment and insurance aid that some states have halted. (Congressional Budget Office rules do not allow them to count funding like the $53 billion in unused unemployment insurance or $173 billion in unused COVID aid that will be repurposed for physical infrastructure in the scoring of this bill.) This is money Congress already allocated and is out the door.
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According to a Penn Wharton analysis, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act decreases the deficit and is a net benefit to the economy over the next 30 years. It is a fiscally responsible bill. This is an investment over several years on infrastructure assets that will benefit our economy for decades. The Penn Wharton analysis shows the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act decreases the deficit and is a net benefit to the economy over the next 30 years.
This is a big win for the national economy. The bill will streamline and provide faster approval for new projects in addition to the physical infrastructure improvements. Additionally, it is a win for climate; the bill includes a climate title within its surface transportation provisions — a first for major federal legislation. Overall, the bill includes roughly $100 billion in total climate, energy, and sustainability investment, making it the largest federal climate legislation in U.S. history.
Importantly, the infrastructure bill increases the use of public-private partnerships to cut down on the cost of project delivery to the American taxpayer. By modernizing the permitting process, increased private funding for both construction and project life-cycle costs will enable the business community to do what it does best: fuel growth, job creation, and economic progress for all Americans.
The bipartisan infrastructure negotiations showed us how Congress can work together to solve today’s most pressing challenges. We applaud those members who helped inject some common sense into this process by working together to get things done.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.