BY JIM DOYLE
For years, business leaders have called on Congress to fix our infrastructure and work in a bipartisan manner. On Wednesday, July 21, your senators can do both, but they need your help. Starting Monday, you have three days to call Congress, speak with local media, and advocate online.
President Biden and 22 senators (half Republican, half Democrat) have proposed their Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF), the largest long-term investment in American infrastructure since the New Deal. BIF would address longstanding problems, create good-paying jobs, and prioritize climate change mitigation, resilience, and safety. It allocates $312 billion for transportation infrastructure, including $109 billion for roads and bridges, $49 billion for public transportation, and another $15 billion for expanding electric transit and creating a national network of electric vehicle charging stations. It also invests $266 billion to clean our water systems, provide universal broadband, upgrade our power grid, clean up pollution, and make our communities more resilient to extreme weather.
About half of the $1.2 trillion cost would be new spending, and Congress is considering several sources to cover it, including tapping unused funds from prior legislation, using proceeds from 5G spectrum auctions, and collecting unpaid taxes.
The last of these pay-fors — collecting unpaid taxes — may be off the table for BIF, but deserves your attention. Each year, about one in six tax dollars goes unpaid. By modernizing the IRS’s 50-year old IT systems and replacing some of the employees the agency has lost due to decades of budget cuts, we could shrink America’s “tax gap” (the difference between what’s owed and what’s paid), which would provide financing for new investments and reduce the need for future tax increases and budget cuts. Modernizing the IRS’s IT systems would also help the IRS provide better customer service.
Why take time from running your business to help your senator on what might be a tough vote for her? Three reasons. First, this is our best shot at a bipartisan deal this Congress. If BIF passes, we should see more bipartisan legislation. If it fails, we probably won’t.
Second, the longer we wait to fix our infrastructure, the more those repairs cost. Like a homeowner with a leaky roof, it’s cheaper to stop the leak before it rots your beams and ruins your furniture. By 2039, inadequate investments could cost the U.S. $10 trillion in GDP and 3 million jobs — the average American household would pay an extra $3,300 per year due to failing infrastructure
Third, our competitors aren’t waiting to build back better. Of all the countries in the G20, only Mexico is projected to invest less than the U.S. in infrastructure through 2040, as a percentage of GDP. China’s built more than 23,000 miles of high speed rail, which accounts for two-thirds of the world’s total high-speed railway networks. We’ve built only 34 miles.
Business leaders are among the most trusted voices in America and your help is needed. This should be an easy vote, but, sadly, our politics are as worn out as our roads. BIF could repair both, if you act now.
If you need background information on BIF or would like tips on how to talk to reporters or your senator, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Doyle is President of Business Forward, a bipartisan network of more than 100,000 entrepreneurs, investors, small business owners, and executives working to end gridlock in Washington.
Read our Answering America issue brief, Are We Doing Enough to Fix Our Roads and Bridges to learn more.