The Denver Post editorial
Congress has produced a fairly good package of infrastructure investment. The $1 trillion bill will be signed into law Monday by President Joe Biden and it could do great things for this nation. Of course, much will depend on how the money is spent, but we know Colorado has a backlog of needs. State and local officials must be diligent about addressing top priorities first.
According to Sen. John Hickenlooper — who was a part of the 22-member bipartisan group negotiating the details of this package — Colorado will receive based on a formula: $3.7 billion for federal highway programs, $225 million for bridges over five years, $916 million for public transit, $57 million for electric vehicle charging stations, $100 million for broadband expansion, $35 million to fight and prevent wildfires, $688 million for water infrastructure and $432 million for airports. That does not include all of the grant programs the state can apply for on top of formula funding.
To put it lightly, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will address some of Colorado’s largest needs if the money is used wisely.
Samantha Silverberg, special assistant to the president for transportation and infrastructure, told reporters on a call last week that Biden’s administration learned a lot of lessons from the American Recovery Act of 2009, which pumped about $800 billion into the economy between 2009 and 2019 in an attempt to prevent economic disaster from the 2008 financial crisis.
“We are going to really rigorously track in a very transparent way with dashboards and online documents how every dollar is being spent,” Silverberg said. “We want to make sure every dollar is spent efficiently, transparently.”
Whether or not this bill is the success it could be, depends largely on the success of that effort.
Hickenlooper is, as always, optimistic, and his enthusiasm is compelling. The bipartisan bill could spur state and local investments with a transformational effect.
“Fifty years to 100 years from now we are going to call this the Great Transition,” Hickenlooper said. “Where we enter this space of really 8 to 10 years from now, suddenly everyone is going to be buying electric cars, and using electric buses and some may be having all of their electricity being generated by wind, solar, maybe nuclear.”
All of that, Hickenlooper said requires investment in infrastructure.
The vision is adding charging stations across the U.S. making electric vehicle travel over great distances feasible, and transit agencies adding green buses and increasing routes to lure people out of their cars. Those who still need or want their cars will benefit from less clogged and much improved roadways via traditional federal investments.
We like that vision, as well as a vision of Congress where partisan rancor is set aside for the good of the American people. It is possible for the Senate to vote 69 to 30 with 19 Republicans, including the Senate Republican leader, joining Democrats in support of a spending bill.
There’s still the second half of this bill pending in Congress. The Build Back Better plan invests in America’s human infrastructure with things like paid family leave and the refundable child tax credit. There is much to like in that package too, but like many senators, we are waiting for the analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.
In August, the CBO reported that the physical infrastructure bill would, as written then, add $256 billion to deficits over the next 10 years. This historic investment into America is worth the price tag.