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Lipinski: Washington Needs to Come Together on Infrastructure Bill to Boost the Middle Class

By Congressman Dan Lipinski

This past November, Americans sent a clear message that they want Washington to do more to make the American economy work for the middle class.  They know that American workers have been hurt by bad trade deals; they want these deals to be renegotiated and future deals to prioritize American workers, not multi-national corporations.  They see American manufacturing jobs declining not just because of automation, but because other countries are stealing these jobs through unfair trade practices while Washington does little to fight back. 

Americans also know that there is a lot of work to be done fixing our broken infrastructure, especially our transportation system.  In northeastern Illinois we have some of the worst congestion in the country, which means lost time, wasted gas, and more pollution.  It also means that conducting business is more expensive for local businesses who need to get products to customers quickly.  Overall, it hurts our quality of life every day in many different ways.

President Trump has promised the American people a trillion dollar infrastructure bill.  He mentioned it the night of the election, during his Inaugural Address, and during his address to a Joint Session of Congress.  But more than three months into Donald Trump’s presidency we have yet to see any concrete ideas put forward, much less a piece of legislation. 

Congress stepped forward two years ago with a five year transportation infrastructure funding bill that I helped to write.  As the only House Transportation Committee member from Illinois appointed to work out the final compromise on the bill known as the FAST Act, I helped make sure the bill increased funding for local road and transit projects by more than ten percent and addressed regional transportation priorities.  While this bill has been helpful, we all know from our daily experiences that more needs to be done.  But will President Trump follow through on his promise and will Congress come together to get it done? 

First we need a good plan.  The only plan that President Trump has put forward so far relies on tax breaks to spur private building.  To some this looks more like a tax cut for big-money developers rather than an infrastructure plan.  The biggest problem is that it would only lead to the construction of tollroads and other projects that would produce a guaranteed return.  This would mean that most of our infrastructure would continue to crumble, while those projects that did get done would cost more because they would include a profit for investors. 

What we need is a real infrastructure plan that makes a public investment in our transportation system.  It should include more than “shovel-ready projects” as has been suggested by the Trump Administration; this lesson should have been learned from President Obama’s stimulus bill.  We need to make long-term investments that transform our transportation system.  This investment will pay off for everyone with less time wasted on our roads, less fuel unnecessarily burned, a better public transit system, the direct creation of jobs, and a long-term boost to our economy. These would be big payoffs for all Americans, especially the middle class. 

There are many policies that President Trump is trying to implement that I strongly disagree with and I will continue to fight against them.  But we should not let these disagreements stop us from working on issues that can help create jobs for middle-class families.  Infrastructure investment should be an issue that we can all agree upon.  Washington needs to remember the message Americans sent in November and come together on a real infrastructure bill that will boost the middle class.