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From the Transcontinental Railroads to the Hoover Dam, and from the interstate highway system to our wide deployment of broadband, America has a long and impressive history of providing state-of-the-art infrastructure. However, our nation’s infrastructure, once the envy of the world, is now in decline.
Failure to maintain our infrastructure has allowed minor issues to turn into major problems. The latest American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card tells a sad story, saddling America’s infrastructure with D+ grade. Shockingly, this grade is actually an improvement from a grade of D in the previous report. The report estimates that the U.S., at all levels of government, would have to invest $3.6 trillion to bring our country’s infrastructure to a state of good repair by 2020.
Study after study has shown that investing in infrastructure leads to better safety, faster economic growth and higher quality of life. Not maintaining our infrastructure will have the reverse effect. So, how can you – the country’s next president – address this important issue?
First, you should ensure prompt implementation of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which was enacted in 2015. This bipartisan legislation increased U.S. federal surface transportation investment over the next five years, and it includes important reforms to the planning and approval process for transportation projects to reduce regulatory delays and utilize limited federal dollars in a more efficient manner. Furthermore, the FAST Act dedicates funding for freight projects that will enhance our ability to compete in the global economy.
Next, you should work to eliminate barriers to entry for private investment as a supplement – not a replacement – for public investment in infrastructure projects. At the U.S. Chamber’s recent Invest in America Summit, several foreign investment companies expressed interest in participating in U.S. infrastructure financing if the investment process was clearly defined with regulatory flexibility.
Finally, you must partner with the Congress to find a long-term, sustainable funding source for surface transportation investment. Currently at 18.3 cents per gallon, the federal gasoline tax has not increased since 1993. Since then, the user fee has lost more than 35 percent of its purchasing power. Even with the passage of the FAST Act, our nation’s current level of investment in surface transportation is less than half of what is needed. Now is the time to show leadership in adjusting the federal gasoline user fee to keep pace with our growing needs. Your success working with Congress on the issue will go a long way in determining the fate of our nation’s vital infrastructure.
There is no single funding solution that will solve all our financing problems. We thus urge you to reach into a large toolkit of funding and financing options that can be utilized to provide the infrastructure needed not just to succeed but to lead the world again in this important area.
Should you fail to provide the leadership necessary to ensure sufficient investment in America’s deteriorating infrastructure, the results will have a cascading impact on America’s economy. Inadequate investment will undermine business productivity and the ability of both small and large companies to provide a 21st century quality of life to our employees.
The Chamber stands ready to support your efforts to work with elected officials and the public to address this challenge, and to ensure that America can once again boast infrastructure that is the envy of the world.