Biparty Infrastructure Bill Gives Taxpayers Value for Money

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As Senators prepare to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill they negotiated with President Biden, they should be applauded for incorporating several provisions that would help control costs and give taxpayers the most for their money.

One of the reasons why infrastructure projects cost much more in the United States than similar projects in other countries is our Byzantine licensing process. The bill directs licensing agencies to reduce average approval times to less than two years for large projects and includes several provisions to help achieve this without sacrificing important social and environmental protections.

For example, a proposition of Meaning. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSchumer decides to close debate on T-infrastructure bill In praising Susan Collins’ persistent bipartisanship, CBO says bipartisan infrastructure bill would add $ 6 billion to deficit over 10 years MORE (D-Arizona), Joe manchinJoe ManchinPraising Susan Collins’ persistent bipartisanship, Graham says he urged Trump to “speak up” on vaccines Senate should postpone vacation until he acts on voting rights MORE, (DW.Va.), and Rob portmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSchumer decides to end debate on T-infrastructure bill In praising Susan Collins’ persistent bipartisanship, the CBO says the bipartisan infrastructure bill would add $ 6 billion to the deficit on 10 years PLUS (R-Ohio) included in the bill would strengthen the Directing Council for Federal Permitting Improvement which has saved taxpayers over $ 1 billion and reduced permit approval times for infrastructure projects covered up to 45% since its inception in 2015. The board, which is currently slated to expire next year, would be made permanent and expanded to cover additional projects. The bill also directs agencies responsible for conducting reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to produce a joint environmental impact statement and expands NEPA’s categorical exclusions to expedite the approval of projects that are unlikely to have a significant environmental impact.

To help direct money towards the most productive and innovative projects, the bill includes more than $ 100 billion for competitive grant programs that use criteria such as benefit-cost analyzes to allocate funds in such a way. effective. Compared to similar programs in the past, those in this bill include much more funding and flexibility for complex projects, such as those involving multiple modes of transportation. The bill also funds several pilot programs, some to promote the use of technologies that can improve productivity, and creates an Advanced Infrastructure Research Projects Agency (ARPA-I) to carry out additional research. These provisions could lead to groundbreaking innovations that would help bring US infrastructure costs down to international standards in the long run.

The bill also effectively harnesses the power of matching grants. State and local governments that can afford it are required to make a contribution to access federal funding in the bill for most projects that benefit their constituents. This matching structure directs federal dollars only to projects in which local officials are themselves invested and helps mobilize additional resources to complement the $ 550 billion in new federal spending included in the bill.

But it could be even better. An amendment introduced by Sens. John cornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: Federal Cyber ​​Agency Launches Efforts to Defend the United States Against Cyber ​​Attacks | Senators Introduce Bill to Punish Countries Linked to Ransomware Attacks | Amazon Pushes Reopening of Overnight Defense Firms: Biden Faces Democrat Pressure to Downsize Guantánamo Bay On The Money: Senate Talks To Swiftly Pass Infrastructure Bill | CBO says bill would add $ 6 billion to debt in 10 years (R-Texas) and Alex PadillaAlex PadillaCornyn Reaches White House Deal Over COVID-19 Money For Infrastructure Senate Democrats Unveil Bill To Protect Election Officials And Prevent Election Subversion (D-Calif.) Which is slated for a vote on Saturday would allow state and local governments to use up to 30% of their federal COVID rescue aid for infrastructure projects, including their contribution to a federal game for the projects proposed by the bill.

As these governments run record budget surpluses bolstered by federal COVID aid far beyond their needs, many have started spending the aid on policies that would do little to contain the pandemic or support people. struggling with its economic effects, such as paying retroactive bonuses to non-frontline government employees or giving a fourth stimulus check to the vast majority of residents. Allowing state and local governments to spend these funds on productive infrastructure investments would hopefully discourage this kind of reckless spending.

But not all of the amendments under discussion would improve the bill. One would increase Pentagon funding by $ 50 billion without offsetting the cost, while another would make it easier for people to evade the taxes they owe on cryptocurrency transactions. While the bill as drafted would already add more than $ 340 billion to the national debt, it would be a mistake to further increase this price for anything but the most profitable public investments. But there is a silver lining for hawks disappointed with the deficit: the bill includes a pilot for a long-awaited national vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) charge that could be used to replace declining tax revenue. on gasoline and pay future infrastructure bills.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill makes a transformative investment in the foundation of our economy and the future of American infrastructure – and does so in a way that gives taxpayers value for their money. Despite the imperfections of the final deal, President Biden and Senate negotiators are to be congratulated on this historic achievement.

Ben Ritz is the director of the Center for Funding America’s Future at the Progressive Policy Institute.


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