Herald & Review (Decatur, IL)
May 18, 2019
America’s infrastructure is in desperate need of repair. Roughly, federal spending on infrastructure has decreased by 20% over the last 15 years while 33% of all interstate bridges remain deficient and 20% of all highways are classified in poor condition. Recent polling shows 80% of Americans support investment in infrastructure. There’s no better time to pass an infrastructure bill than now.
When I was named the top Republican to the Highways and Transit Subcommittee this Congress, I immediately sat down with former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Secretary LaHood, a Republican, was appointed by President Barack Obama so I wanted to hear from him on how best to work with members on both sides of the aisle to get a bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law this Congress. His first piece of advice was to make sure politics doesn’t get in the way.
In 1998, then-Illinois Congressman LaHood chaired the impeachment proceedings over President Bill Clinton. How many infrastructure bills got passed in that time?
Partisan witch hunts and impeachment proceedings are enemies of infrastructure legislation. We have real tangible problems in this country that need solving. Every day Americans walk, ride, drive, and fly on infrastructure that is in desperate need of repair. Americans expect their leaders to work toward solutions and we have too much that needs to get done to let politics stand in the way.
This past week was Infrastructure Week, I’ve met with multiple groups and constituents about infrastructure – each one asking Congress to get something done. On Monday, I met with Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe in Decatur along with City Manager Scot Wrighton about what’s needed to fix the roads and grow our local economy. In Washington, D.C., I met with the county engineers for Piatt County as part of the Transportation Construction Coalition. In every meeting, there is agreement that we have to spend more money on our nation’s roads and bridges but where will the money come from?
I have called on lawmakers to support diversifying how we fund transportation projects. For years the government has required cars to burn less fuel – which in the long term is good for the environment -- and consumers are buying more and more electric vehicles. Even here in Central Illinois, Rivian, a startup company that bought the old Mitsubishi plant in Bloomington-Normal, is going to start making electric trucks and SUVs. This means fewer people are paying into the system we rely on to fund infrastructure and this trend will only continue.
To solve these problems, I’ve been supportive of bipartisan proposals like the BOLD Act, increasing opportunities for public-private partnerships, embracing asset recycling, and looking at ways to bring electric vehicle users into the mix. The fact is, we can’t continue to rely on one main source of funding for the Highway Trust Fund. Just like you wouldn’t invest your 401(k) in one fund, we shouldn’t rely on just one way to fund our roads and bridges.
I was encouraged by the meeting between Democrat leaders and President Trump two weeks ago and I hope these conversations continue. It’s time for our leaders in the House and Senate to get serious about legislating solutions for the American people. If both sides stay the course and do not let politics get in the way, we will get an infrastructure bill this Congress. A strong investment will deliver on our promises to this country, keep our economy growing, and provide better job opportunities for millions of our constituents.