Saving Our Infrastructureby Representative Peter A. DeFazio
Posted on 2013-03-19
DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, as I speak here on the floor, the American
Society of Civil Engineers is releasing a report card for America's
The gentleman who spoke before me talked about the legacy that we leave to our country and about growth in the Nation. Well, this is an incredible legacy we're leaving and creating, which is an unbelievable deficit in our Nation's infrastructure. We've gone from No. 1 in the world post-World War II with the Eisenhower era, the national interstate program, to No. 26 in the world. We are spending less of our gross domestic product on infrastructure investment than many Third World countries. It's not only an embarrassment; it is hurting our economy and our growth.
Now, if your kid came home and said, Hey, Dad, guess what? I got my report card. Here it is. Good news. Good news. Oh, it's good news. I went up to a D-plus. A D-plus--that's where America's infrastructure is.
We have a projected deficit over the next 7 years of about $1.6 trillion. That's an unbelievable, unimaginable number, $1.6 trillion. That's as much money as the war in Iraq cost us, an unnecessary and wasteful war. We can't afford to invest in our infrastructure, but we're rebuilding the infrastructure in Afghanistan. There's something wrong with this picture.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, if we don't address this investment gap in all of our infrastructure, by 2020 the economy will lose $1 trillion in business sales, 3.5 million jobs will be lost or foregone and there will be $3.1 trillion less in gross domestic product. If we invested $1.6 trillion, we would get 100 percent return on our investment and 3.5 million more jobs. Not bad, but the people on that side of the aisle don't believe in rebuilding America's infrastructure. They have some wacko theory here of what they call ``devolution.'' We shouldn't have a national transportation policy, no. It should be done by the 50 States. Well, we already tried that. It didn't work too well. That's when Dwight David Eisenhower said we needed an national interstate system, and we built it. Now it's falling apart.
There are 140,000 bridges that need substantial repair or replacement and 40 percent of the pavement on the National Highway System is at the point where there are potholes big enough to put your car in. Maybe if the White House limousine falls in one of those holes we'll get a little more action down there in terms of funding our infrastructure. I've been trying to get them to take a position on this.
We are looking at something even more extraordinary. In 2015--we've been paying for infrastructure out of a trust fund. It hasn't added to the deficit. But it raises taxes. Oh, my God. We can't have taxes for something like that, can we? Not on that side of aisle.
Well, if we don't do something about it, the trust fund is going to drop below zero sometime in 2014, which means we are not going to invest any more in our National Transportation System. For one year we'll go from $50 billion, which is not sufficient to even deal with the deterioration, let alone build out a better, more efficient 21st century infrastructure, to $7 billion. That's hundreds of thousands of jobs gone. That's an acceleration in the deterioration of the system.
We're going to have to talk about revenues. It's the only way to solve that problem, unless you want to devolve it to the 50 States and have the States build interstates that don't match up or maybe they won't build the interstates at all. We don't know what kind of plan is coming from that side of the aisle. But I do know that we need to make these investments. As I already pointed out, we can get a 100 percent rate of return.
It's pretty simple. We would just index the existing gas tax, which hasn't changed since 1993. Yeah, we're paying nearly 4 bucks a gallon. It will be 5 bucks a gallon by Memorial Day. And the money is going into the coffers of ExxonMobil and the other big oil companies. It isn't going to repair infrastructure.
We haven't raised that tax in 20 years. If we just indexed it to construction cost inflation and indexed it to fleet fuel economy, we could issue bonds paid off by that increment on the gas tax. It would be about a penny a year a gallon. When I was driving to work one day and they were changing the cards up there, they were raising it a nickel a gallon just as I drove by. At a penny a gallon, I think most Americans would be willing to pay for that if they knew it was going to save 3.5 or create 3.5 million jobs and put this country back on track and get rid of some of the delays and the congestion and the detours and all the other problems we have.
So let's pay attention to this scorecard, to this report card. If your kid came home with a card like this, you'd do something about it. Congress better do something about it.