I believe the government should do three things: collect our taxes, defend the homeland and help with infrastructure — then get out of the way. Unfortunately, years of government inaction has led to deteriorating infrastructure which has limited the nation’s economic output.
According to the Government Accountability Office, one in four bridges are deficient and 14% are functionally obsolete.When it comes to our country’s electrical grid, the American Society of Civil Engineers projects a funding gap of nearly $200 billion for the electric grid over the next decade.
In addition, the infrastructure needs of the people have changed in the digital age. According to a 2020 Federal Communications Commission report,3 over 18 million Americans lack affordable access to broadband, many of whom live in rural communities throughout Congressional District 25.
President Biden’s recent proposal is a grab bag of liberal priorities that has little to do with infrastructure but rather fulfills a campaign promise to increase taxes and deliver the Green New Deal for the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Look no further than his desire to restrict oil and gas development, destroying investments in domestic energy production and surrendering the American energy independence gained under President Trump. Estimates for Biden’s infrastructure package have reportedly neared $6 trillion, that’s on top of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that Democrats railroaded through Congress in April.
Conversely, Republicans proposed a more targeted and fiscally sound approach that would address our immediate infrastructure needs without raising taxes on hardworking Americans or increasing our national debt.
We cannot fund vital public works project on the backs of individuals and businesses who just survived the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead we should pursue public-private partnerships that establish long-term, cost-effective relationships. By getting the private sector involved, we can execute infrastructure projects that meet time and cost parameters without saddling the American people with the entirety of the bill.
The future of an infrastructure package remains unclear, as both sides and the White House seem far apart at nearly every turn, least of which is agreement on what definitively constitutes “infrastructure.”
As Republicans, Democrats and the White House continue to negotiate, we must not let short-term political pressures get in the way of meeting the needs of the American people. Every day we wait to make the necessary investment, our communities fall further behind and the recovery costs multiply.
Roger Williams of Austin is a U.S. Congressman representing District 25, which includes Johnson County.