Politics Republican bill to modernize infrastructure regulation will spur job creation
Joe Manchin urges Biden to focus on 'conventional' infrastructure
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, an influential Democrat, called for focusing on 'conventional' infrastructure and suggested splitting off parts of Joe Biden's $2.3 trillion plan.‘What we think the greatest need we have now, that can be done in a bipartisan way, is conventional infrastructure whether it's the water, sewer, roads, bridges, Internet — things that we know need to be repaired, be fixed,’ the influential West Virginia Democrat said at a press conference Friday.
Ever since President Joe Biden unveiled his $2.25 trillion, Washington and the media have been consumed with the prospects of a big infrastructure bill reaching the Oval Office. Optimism in politics is important, but the public shouldn’t hold its breath that the Biden plan will become law anytime soon. After all, we’ve been down this road many times before: Lawmakers broadly seem to agree on doing something on infrastructure, only to hit a roadblock when ironing out those pesky details.
Broadly speaking, Republicans and Democrats agree that the federal government, in conjunction with the states and private stakeholders, needs to do more to revamp our nation’s ailing infrastructure assets. In addition to raising important public safety concerns, outdated infrastructure hampers the ability of businesses to remain competitive in a globalized world. Meanwhile, workers and the self-employed lose the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars in time and productivity, whether through traffic congestion or severely damaged roadways. A modernized infrastructure and transportation system will ensure that people and businesses maximize their growth potential.
Republicans unveil $568 billion counteroffer to Biden's infrastructure plan
Republicans unveiled a $568 billion infrastructure framework Thursday -- their answer to President Joe Biden's far more expansive $2 trillion package. Your browser does not support this video The newly released GOP framework focuses exclusively on "core" infrastructure items like roads and bridges, broadband, airports, waterways, rails, ports and public transit. It excludes other big-ticket items in Biden's proposal, including explicit funding for electric vehicles, housing and home care. Sen.
Unfortunately, few would consider the Biden proposal to be a traditional “infrastructure” plan. Instead, it reads more like a wish list of radical items. For example, the plan only spends a small fraction of the total cost on roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and seaports. Instead, the vast majority of the spending is for noninfrastructure items: $174 billion for electric vehicles, $400 billion for healthcare, $80 billion for Amtrak, and billions more for subsidies from the Green New Deal. It’s disingenuous and unserious for this to be labeled an “infrastructure” package.
Aside from the laundry list of wasteful spending, one of the biggest drawbacks of the proposal is a failure to reform the bureaucratic delays that plague how infrastructure gets built. Too many projects get tangled in regulatory red tape that needlessly increases the price of a project and delays the hiring of workers.
Republicans and Democrats agree we need an infrastructure bill. That’s about all they agree on.
Republicans say a path to a bipartisan infrastructure deal exists — it’s just not the deal Democrats want.Of course, they differed with Biden and Democrats over the scope of what should be included in the bill and how to pay for it.
The best way to revitalize the United States’s infrastructure and modernize the transportation system isn’t just spending taxpayer dollars for the sake of “infrastructure” but instead streamlining the process to make building more efficient and less expensive without sacrificing safety.
In the absence of reform proposed by Biden, House Republicans realize the biggest impediment to bringing infrastructure and jobs online isn’t funding but government inefficiencies. Recently, House Republicans reintroduced the BUILDER Act, a comprehensive bill that would finally address many of the delays that impede the construction of roads and bridges. This timely bill would codify many of the important pro-growth reforms implemented by the Trump administration through modernization of the outdated National Environmental Policy Act. At its core, the BUILDER Act makes infrastructure project reviews more efficient and cost-effective, two things that will spur economic recovery and create jobs.
Without a focus on maintenance, infrastructure dollars will be wasted
A properly structured infrastructure bill must encourage state and local governments to maintain infrastructure.Just like a car, major new infrastructure facilities come with an owner's manual. The manual instructs the state and local governments that own the vast majority of America's civil infrastructure how to maximize its useful life by maintaining it over time. In tough economic times, infrastructure maintenance is, sadly, one of the easiest things for governments to defer. It has virtually no direct political consequences and its effects are not felt for years, or perhaps decades - long after current administrators and politicians are gone.
Reforming NEPA is a key piece to making infrastructure jobs shovel-ready. NEPA is a half-century-old statute designed to ensure that infrastructure and energy projects consider environmental factors prior to development. Before issuing a permit, federal agencies must consider the aesthetic, historical, cultural, economic, and social effects of proposed actions. These vague standards leave projects in bureaucratic purgatory, exposed to lawsuits and on the sidelines.
Environmental protection is an important goal, but the requirements set forth by NEPA are no longer tenable. In fact, theto complete a NEPA study increased from 2.2 years in the 1970s to 4.4 years in the 1980s to 6.6 years in 2011. Every delay increases project costs and postpones the benefits of modern, safer infrastructure, with little evidence of an environmental benefit.
If passed, the BUILDER Act would arguably be the most comprehensive NEPA reform legislation ever signed into law. The bill codifies clear timelines for environmental approvals, clarifies environmental impact statements and environmental assessment requirements for smaller projects, and improves public engagement. The BUILDER Act is a jobs bill, infrastructure bill, and good government reform bill all in one. Most importantly, it does all that without adding a penny to our already high national debt.
Congress needs to help modernize our digital infrastructure
Ransomware attacks against small businesses and state and local governments increased exponentially over the last three years.Foreign adversaries and criminals alike are also able to harness the power of the internet to harvest sensitive personal information, conduct espionage, steal intellectual property, or lock up critical systems in our communities. Ransomware attacks against small businesses and state and local governments increased exponentially over the last three years, with billions of dollars lost. Moving forward, it's all but certain that we'll see a cybercrime spree across our communities that pales in comparison to the last few years.
The Biden infrastructure plan is woefully inadequate to addressing the nation's infrastructure needs because it refuses to take on the reality that outdated regulations prevent the U.S. from building anything in a timely and taxpayer-friendly manner. The BUILDER Act, on the other hand, is a major step forward for infrastructure projects and for taxpayers.
Thomas Aiello is the director of federal affairs with the National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for taxpayers at all levels of government.
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How a rail revolution could look under Biden’s infrastructure push .
What Joe Biden's massive infrastructure push could mean for rail in the U.S. The president famously commuted daily from Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, D.C., during his time as a senator, logging millions of miles riding the rails and earning the nickname “Amtrak Joe.