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States use Hurricane Ida damage to push infrastructure bill

Elaine S. Povich, Stateline.org on

Published in News & Features

“This is not an infrastructure bill. It’s an infrastructure, Green New Deal and welfare bill. Only 23 percent of the new spending in the bill is for actual infrastructure,” he said in a statement.

He maintained the bill would increase taxes on Louisiana’s petroleum industry and would hike the federal deficit by $256 billion.

He also argued his state was being shortchanged.

“Louisiana will only receive $1.1 billion in new money over 10 years, or about $110 million a year. That is less than 10 percent of the $12 billion that Democratic Sen. [Chuck] Schumer will get for a single tunnel in New York.”

With $550 billion in new federal spending — the rest is earmarked to continue existing programs past their expiration date at the end of September — the $1 trillion bipartisan bill passed by the Senate 69-30 in August is huge even by congressional standards.

It would grant $110 billion for roads, bridges and other surface transportation projects, $25 billion for airports, $66 billion for rail and $39 billion for public transit. It includes $65 billion for expanding high-speed internet access, and $50 billion for resilience efforts: hardening storm protection, fighting against climate change-induced weather damage and shoring up water storage facilities for the parched West. The resilience portion also includes funds that would beef up cybersecurity, mitigate coastal erosion and invest in weatherization.

 

A 2021 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which performs an annual survey of American roads, bridges and other transportation fixtures, gives the nation a C- grade on infrastructure overall—but that’s up from 2017’s D+. The group said the improvement is because of, among other factors, 37 states raising their gas tax to fund critical transportation investments since 2010, and 98% of local infrastructure ballot initiatives passing in November 2020.

While there appears to be bipartisan support in the House for the infrastructure legislation, liberal Democrats are insisting that the legislation be tied to a separate bill that would fund many social programs that they say are just as important to the nation’s well-being as roads and bridges. That bill, with a price tag of $3.5 trillion, includes enhancements to Medicare and Medicaid, universal pre-kindergarten, child care subsidies, free community college, expansion of the child tax credit and paid family and medical leave.

The social policy bill is unlikely to get Republican support, leaving Democrats squabbling among themselves. Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has emerged as one stumbling block, saying he won’t support a social policy bill that big because of concerns about increasing the federal deficit.

While the arguing over the larger bill continues, state officials continue to push for the infrastructure money. In a statement following the Senate’s passage of the bill, the National Governors Association underscored its support for the effort and urged Congress to complete action swiftly.

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