Make It in America: Infrastructureby Representative Janice Hahn
Posted on 2015-01-27
HAHN. Thank you, Mr. Garamendi, for having the leadership,
certainly, on Make It In America, but really reminding our colleagues
and all Americans how important these projects are in terms of
repairing our infrastructure, as well as creating good American jobs.
I am here today to join you and many of our colleagues in really pressing Congress this year to take action to improve our Nation's outdated, underfunded ports and to repair and replace crumbling roads and dangerous bridges.
I serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I founded and cochair our congressional bipartisan PORTS Caucus, so I work closely with not only Democrats, but I am working very closely with Republicans.
I do know--and I believe this to be true--that this is one area that we can [[Page H623]] agree on, and that is our infrastructure and transportation. I am really hoping that we can work together across the aisle and understand that making these essential investments in America's transportation and infrastructure will create good-paying jobs, will help American businesses to compete globally, and it will improve the quality of life for families in every single congressional district.
As you said--and I will take bragging rights--I represent the Port of Los Angeles, and Alan Lowenthal represents the Port of Long Beach. Together, we consider them America's ports. They are the largest port complex in the country. They account for about 40 percent of all trade that comes through this country, it comes through our ports.
I am a big advocate for these ports. As the cochair of the PORTS Caucus, I am an advocate for all ports in this country because the entire port network, the entire network of highways, roads, bridges, and infrastructure that move freight across this country, needs some champions here in Congress.
This freight network is important for moving goods across our country. It is important for small businesses, and even if you live hundreds of miles from the nearest port, whether you realize it or not, everyone depends on our ports to get the goods to the stores, to the factories, and to the businesses that many of our colleagues represent.
Maybe you live or work in an agricultural or industrial area. We know that they produce something that America exports to foreign markets.
You may also have a direct interest in making sure that our freight network--our Nation's transportation system--is in good condition, is modern, efficient, and safe so that cargo can travel to the ports where it is loaded on the ships to get overseas.
I loved that in the State of the Union last week, President Obama said that ``21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure.'' The deteriorating infrastructure, crumbling roads, and collapsing bridges that are part of our current national freight network are a threat to America's prosperity and our global competitiveness.
Policymakers here in Congress need to recognize the need to make repairs and upgrades, but we have been stuck on how to pay for them.
I introduced a bill last Congress that I am going to reintroduce this Congress that will create a dedicated funding stream for these vital projects--and listen to this--without raising taxes or imposing any additional fees.
I have come up with an idea how to fund our national freight network, and I am hoping I can get broad support in this Congress. Let me repeat: it does not raise taxes one penny, and it does not increase any fees to any businesses in America.
What it does is divert 5 percent of the fees that we already collect on imports in this country--money that currently goes to the U.S. Treasury's general fund--and we can create a new national freight trust fund.
We collect $39 billion a year nationwide in these import fees. Setting aside just 5 percent of those would give this national freight trust fund about $2 billion a year that we could use to repair roads, highways, and bridges--the last mile to ease congestion into our ports across this country. Again, it is not going to raise taxes or fees.
I know, as you mentioned, Mr. Garamendi, we need to pass a surface transportation bill. I am working with Chairman Shuster and some of the committee members on our Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to see if my legislation can be a part of that as a way just to fund our freight network.
It is different than funding the highway trust fund, which is our normal roads and bridges. This is different. This is about the network that moves goods in this country. I hope you will support me.
Thank you for allowing me to speak on this very Special Hour. This is an issue, Mr. Garamendi, I know that we agree on. I know that our Republican colleagues will agree with us on this.
Maybe this is the one thing that we can do as a huge gift to the American people: find something in a bipartisan way, some common ground that we agree on, that will really repair infrastructure and create good jobs here in America. I think this is an issue that will, I believe, make the American people happy.