Federal infrastructure bill bolsters state lawmakers' goals
As Congress moves on passing a massive infrastructure bill, lawmakers tout its potential benefits for the First State.
Both state and federal lawmakers have focused on greater infrastructure spending, with U.S. senators passing a $1 trillion plan to invest in America’s backbone this week.
Sen. Tom Carper is the chair of the Environment and Public Works committee, and helped build the framework for this legislation. He says it ties into the state’s own focus on infrastructure.
“The state legislature, the governor have a very aggressive appetite for updating our roads and highways and bridges and so forth — the federal government pays about 80 percent of that. And we wanna make sure that when the state says we wanna build a project whether it’s Kent, Sussex or New Castle county, and they have the state money, we wanna make sure that the federal government will be there with our share too,” said Carper.
This year, state lawmakers passed the largest bond bill in state history, pumping almost a billion dollars into infrastructure and economic development.
And the federal bill helps move those projects forward, providing over twice the dollars the state is fronting to help with more road repairs, broadband coverage and expansion of public transit and electric vehicle charging.
Carper says a big focus of this bill was on fixing roads and old bridges - work like the I-95 project underway right now in Wilmington.
“If we had not passed a substantial investment piece in roads, highways and bridges by the end of September a lot of work around the country would stop, would just like stop in place," said Carper. "So we needed to say uhn-uhn, we’re not gonna stop, we’re gonna keep going — in fact, we’re gonna put the pedal to the metal.”
Carper says this money means not only can current road projects continue, but states can look at things they did not previously have the funds to do.
And getting cars off those roads is also a focus of the package. Delaware would get a quarter billion in funding to improve public transportation statewide.
Carper says that can help reduce emissions fueling climate change greatly.
He adds the bill will be funded in part by greater investment into the IRS. He says new reports from the Government Accountability Office show putting more money into tax collection can reap big gains in revenue.
The bill still needs to pass the House of Representatives, alongside a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that adds many of the things cut out of the bipartisan plan.
Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.