The Right Way to Modernize Infrastructure

June 10, 2021
Columns

RealClear Politics

By: Rep. Gallagher

June 10, 2021

Everything these days seems to count as infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Elder care is infrastructure. Even court-packing is infrastructure. But in a world where everything is infrastructure, nothing is infrastructure, and our existing infrastructure suffers as a result. Take, for example, President Biden’s recently revised American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion boondoggle that prioritizes pretty much everything except for the roads, bridges, ports, and waterways that constitute actual infrastructure. The plan comes after we already appropriated $605 billion for infrastructure and transportation in the last three COVID-19 relief bills.

Perhaps this is why the talks between Senate Republicans and President Biden over this bill have just collapsed. Both parties seem to be starting from the same flawed premise: Let’s haggle over how much money D.C. spends on infrastructure rather than reevaluating the federal government’s role in infrastructure spending. Consider that in most categories, states and localities foot up to 80% to 90% of infrastructure costs. We need to ensure that federal dollars are not displacing state dollars that then move to other priorities, resulting in a no net increase in infrastructure spending. If we have an infrastructure spending proposal on the table, it must prioritize things like cross-state bridges, interstate travel, and large-scale water projects. Sending tax dollars to D.C. just for D.C. to return the dollars back -- via outdated bureaucracy that dilutes them -- to the states does not make sense unless the money funds federal and interstate projects.

Before wasting trillions of dollars we do not have on non-infrastructure, we need to take a step back and get outside the D.C. groupthink. If President Biden and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg are sincere in wanting an innovative, bipartisan proposal, here is how they can earn it.

Read the full op-ed HERE.

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