Senate Democrats Offer Proposal to Spend $1 Trillion on Transportation, Other Systems
A group of senior Senate Democrats unveiled their own 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan that would spend hundreds of billions on transportation systems, but included no proposal on how to pay for it.
They said the plan would create more than 15 million jobs while modernizing various types of facilities that would help the economy grow while cutting costs for people from dealing with congestion, pavement damage and other infrastructure problems.
The sponsors included Charles Schumer of New York, the Democrats' leader in the Senate, 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Florida's Bill Nelson, who is ranking member on the Commerce Committee that oversees the Department of Transportation, and Tom Carper of Delaware, top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Their proposal matches the size of an investment effort that President Trump has called for, although Trump's team has talked about making private funding a big part of his plan. The administration is expected to develop a detailed proposal in coming months while working on a bipartisan basis with Congress to shape it. While Democrats are in the minority in both houses of Congress, they could hope to influence any final infrastructure plan by coalescing behind their own proposals.
"America's physical infrastructure is the backbone of our economy, impacting how we get to work and school, how much groceries cost at the store, the size of our water and sewer bills, and so much more," the plan said. "The availability and quality of infrastructure determines where companies locate and where jobs are created . . . Yet, despite its critical importance to our lives and our economy, we have allowed our nation's infrastructure to fall into a state of disrepair."
The senators proposed allocating an additional $100 billion in federal spending over the next decade to repair roads and bridges on the federal-aid highway system, another $100 billion to cities for their roads or other infrastructure needs, boosting the federal TIGER infrastructure grant program to $1 billion a year compared with $500 million in recent years and spending $180 billion more on passenger rail and bus or rail transit systems.
Their plan would put $200 billion into a new "vital infrastructure program" that would "focus major federal investments on the nation's most critical and transformative transportation projects" for all surface travel modes.
It would also devote $30 billion to improving airports and speeding up the modernization of air traffic control, $10 billion to ports and waterways, and $20 billion to improve roads and other infrastructure on federal and tribal lands. And it would seed an infrastructure bank with $10 billion to provide low-cost project loans and guarantees while also strengthening existing project loan programs.
Besides the specific funding ideas it offered, the senators' plan said its backers "also believe that an infrastructure package should include a bipartisan plan that ensures the long-term solvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund in order to prevent our roads and bridges from returning to a state of disrepair after this initial investment.
It calls for additional infrastructure spending as well to rebuild public schools, fix water and sewer systems, upgrade energy structures, expand broadband to more areas, modernize veterans' hospitals and make communities more resilient to extreme weather events.
Nelson said his state of Florida "is growing at a rate of nearly 1,000 people per day. You can imagine the toll that's taking on our state's infrastructure. This is our chance to make some much-needed repairs and create millions of new jobs in the process."
Sanders said infrastructure spending "is kind of a 'no-brainer.' Whether you are in the state of Vermont or the state of California, you understand that our infrastructure is crumbling – our roads, our bridges, our water systems, our wastewater plants, our airports, our levies and our dams."
He added: "I hope very much that this is an issue where all of us can get together, because it is certainly something the American people want."