Guest Columnist

Delaney: It's time to go big on infrastructure

Presidential hopeful Congressman John Delaney (D-MD) speaks at a Meet and Greet at Merge in Iowa City on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Presidential hopeful Congressman John Delaney (D-MD) speaks at a Meet and Greet at Merge in Iowa City on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Whether you live in a small town or a city, it’s obvious that America’s infrastructure needs an upgrade. Between roads and bridges falling apart to levees that can no longer hold back floods, all of us, Democrats and Republicans, can see America’s infrastructure crisis right before our eyes. That’s why it was disappointing to see President Donald Trump break off infrastructure talks. Every day that we wait to start rebuilding America, the problem gets worse.

Earlier this month, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Iowa a C on its Infrastructure Report Card. Nationally, our grade is even worse: D+. This week, I announced a comprehensive new plan to rebuild America: a $2 trillion dollar plan that’s fully paid-for. My plan boosts existing programs and creates new infrastructure programs targeted on the areas of most need.

First, my plan would expand the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Created in 1956, the HTF supports both highway construction and transit programs. However, for decades it’s been underfunded. My plan solves that problem — increasing direct investment by the Highway Trust Fund by 50 percent. To boost infrastructure investment overall, my plan would also create a new National Infrastructure Bank, which would finance projects of all shapes and sizes nationwide.

My plan would also create new infrastructure funds dedicated to climate resilience and water infrastructure. Climate change has led to more frequent storms, which have resulted in widespread damage. We saw that firsthand this year in Iowa, where flooding has been devastating. Additionally, my plan includes the construction of a new Carbon Thruway, that will help fight climate change by transporting captured carbon from the Midwest for permanent sequestration and reuse in the Permian Basin.

My plan also creates a new fund dedicated to school construction. Too many students don’t have enough room, don’t have adequate cooling and heating systems and don’t have modern facilities. The Delaney infrastructure plan also creates a new fund dedicated to deferred maintenance to help state and local governments do the important repair work needed to maintain the assets that we already have. There are more than 47,000 structurally deficient bridges in the U.S., and at the current rate it would take more than 80 years to repair them. Finally, my plan includes a new fund dedicated to communities that have been left behind and a rural broadband fund.

This probably sounds like a lot, and it is. I want us to get serious about infrastructure in a way we haven’t been in a long time. Infrastructure creates good jobs — which is something we always need — and it boosts productivity and growth. Right now, businesses lose too much time watching their products sit in traffic and get clogged in rail and harbor backlogs. Moreover, it’s cheaper to invest in climate preparedness and maintenance on the front end than it is to pay for catastrophic repairs and relief.

To pay for my plan, I propose to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 27% and to raise the gas tax. We haven’t updated the gas tax for inflation since the 1990s, and setting the corporate tax rate at 27% still is much lower than the 35% rate it was just two years ago. It might be easier for me politically to tell you that we don’t have to do these things, but I believe in fiscal responsibility.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

So, let’s get serious. Let’s stop talking about infrastructure and work on getting this done.

• John Delaney is a former congressman from Maryland who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.