Dear President Trump,
As the U.S. House of Representatives continues to work on a much needed infrastructure package, the New Democrat Coalition urges you to recommit to working with Congress on comprehensive and bipartisan legislation. The New Democrat Coalition, a group of more than 100 Democrats in the House seeking to look at old problems through a new lens, view this effort to modernize America's aging infrastructure as an essential component of our broader efforts to create jobs, spur economic growth, and increase our global competitiveness. We believe this is an opportunity for a bold bipartisan effort. Afterall, nobody cares what party you are in when sitting in traffic.
Last Congress, the New Democrat Coalition's Infrastructure Task Force set broad priorities in "Four Pillars for an Infrastructure Deal." We proposed a plan that would:
Modernize America's infrastructure funding, revenue sources, and cost analysis;
Create an infrastructure bank to finance projects;
Create incentives for communities most in need of building and maintaining their infrastructure, including through grant programs; and
Encourage innovation and reform, including responsible regulatory streamlining and private public partnerships, and the adoption of new innovative technologies.
Our coalition has been encouraged by the renewed, bipartisan support for advancing legislation that will deliver on our nation's infrastructure priorities. While that effort appears to have stalled, we urge it to restart and respectfully recommend the following be considered as Congress and the administration work together to craft a comprehensive infrastructure package.
We need reliable funding sources for infrastructure that cannot be looted for other projects. Americans are ready for innovations in financing, including responsible public-private partnerships. Our Members want to do something big and many are willing to support new innovative revenue sources. We urge Congress and the administration to modernize funding for existing entities like the Highway Trust Fund while also exploring new ideas like vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fees, expanding Private Activity Bonds (PABs), or a public-private National Infrastructure Bank, which could leverage federal funds to provide low-cost loans or guarantees to state or local governments to finance qualified infrastructure projects.
In addition to dramatically growing our overall investments in infrastructure, we also believe a significant increase in federal project-based funding will give our communities the flexibility to meet their unique local needs. Even when federal funding exists, under the status quo, local communities are running into real challenges when trying to access it. We seek to give communities ownership of local development, and encourage technological innovation, as well as more comprehensive multi-use corridors. It's time the federal government paid its fair share by providing dedicated funding to support these locally driven projects.
We must also embrace regulatory reform along with technological innovation to maximize the impact of federal funds. Improving the permitting process can help to reduce lengthy and costly project delays while ensuring we continue to be good stewards of our environment. Already, there are outstanding mandates that could further this effort sitting with the Department of Transportation (DOT), including provisions of the FAST Act, that we believe need to be finalized.
Finally, we should provide dedicated support for projects that help communities become more energy efficient, resilient and better prepared to deal with the impacts of climate change. Communities across our country, especially our densely populated economic centers and coastal communities, are already experiencing the consequences of climate change induced extreme weather events, flooding, and more. We need to invest in projects that enhance climate resilience, while also reducing pollution and carbon emissions. New innovations in alternative transportation are also critical to connecting underserved communities to economic opportunities, alleviating strain on our existing roads, and reducing the overall environmental impact of our transportation system. The New Democrat Coalition urges Congress and the administration to take a climate-forward approach to any infrastructure package.
Infrastructure projects are consistently evaluated as the best return on government investments, so investing in our infrastructure is more than just good politics, it is good economics. Supporting the movement of people and goods on our nation's roads, railways, bridges, ports, and airports is crucial to driving investment in our communities. Working together on infrastructure is an area where we can show the American people that we are fighting to deliver on this shared priority. The New Democrat Coalition is eager to take advantage of this opportunity to bring our infrastructure into the 21st Century, and we look forward to working with you in a bipartisan way to achieve this goal.