Infrastructure Goes Beyond Party Lines

Whether Democrat or Republican, crumbling infrastructure affects us all

By Gov. Ed Rendell

As a former Democratic Party Chairman, I often get questioned about what the Democrats would do if they took back the House of Representatives. My political advice would be go relatively light on investigations and heavy on legislation. Some of the legislation that a Democratic House would pass would be just to give the nation an example of what we would do if we could control the process because a great deal of it wouldn’t get pass the Republicans in the Senate and, even if it did, would not survive the Presidential veto. For example, rolling back some of the giveaways to rich people in the tax reform act and using the money for other laudable purposes. One such idea that I’ve heard discussed is rolling back the $341 billion tax cut that was given to real estate developers over the next ten years and instead using those dollars to help fund a really robust infrastructure revitalization program. The Trump infrastructure plan dedicates $200 billion in new funding for infrastructure over the next ten years – less than one tenth a year of what the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recommends is needed to bring our infrastructure up to “Fair Condition”. This is a great idea, but no way it survives the Senate and certainly not a Presidential veto because, as you may recall, the President is a real estate developer and so is his son in law, etc., etc., etc.

But there is, however, a real chance that if the Democrats come up with an infrastructure plan that doesn’t rely on repealing part of the tax reform act to use as a funding source that it may get through the Senate and gain the President’s approval. To that end, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), one of the most creative and visionary members of the Ways and Means Committee, is speaking to Democratic state and local officials and transportation experts and analysts to help craft this type of infrastructure legislation. The Congressman is aware that the Democrats winning back control of the House is not a sure thing, but he wants to be ready to move swiftly if it occurs because he realizes that our infrastructure has decayed almost to the point of no return.

The key to a Democratic infrastructure bill would be significant federal government investment coupled with revenue neutral suggestions that would motivate private sector, state, and local investment. Without doing anything that would raise the eye of Senate Republicans or the President, the level of new federal investment could easily reach $450 – $500 billion over a ten-year period. That figure could be reached by taking the $200 billion that the President has already proposed and increasing the federal gas tax by 10-15 cents a gallon. The President has previously talked in favor of raising the gas tax as a funding alternative and I believe if the Congress had the courage to do so, he would happily go along with it. Think about it – increasing the gas tax is supported by the US Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. Two groups who would have trouble agreeing that Monday night football is played on Monday night. Although public opinion on a gas tax increase for infrastructure is fairly even, it could be easily explained to the public why it is important. The Federal gas tax was last raised in 1994, almost a quarter of a century ago. Since 1994, the price of everything has gone up. For example, back then a movie ticket averaged $4.12 compared to today’s $11.82; the average price of a car was $11,421 as compared to $31,000+ today. We could also explain to the public that the cost of doing nothing about our infrastructure is far greater than what they would pay in the tax increase. Doing nothing means continuing to lose money by wasting gas stuck in traffic for endless periods of time, in damage to cars and tires that occurs from having inferior roads and, for businesses, longer delivery time that causes costs to escalate.

This is just one example of what the Democrats could accomplish if we take back the House. If Democrats hope to succeed in the 2020 election, they have to demonstrate to the country that they can get things done despite the fiery rhetoric from the extremes of both parties, by far the majority of Americans want to see Congress and the President to work together to accomplish things to meet our challenges and needs. Revitalizing our infrastructure is one of the most important things we can do and I believe one of the easiest to reach consensus on. It would be good for the Democrats and even better for the country!

 

Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania’s 45th Governor, began a second term of office on January 16th, 2007, following a landslide re-election victory. As Governor, Rendell served as chief executive of the nation’s 6th-most-populous state and oversaw a $27.5 billion budget. He currently serves as co-chair for Building America’s Future Educational Fund, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials dedicated to bringing about a new era of U.S. investment in infrastructure that enhances our nation’s prosperity and quality of life.

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