Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bipartisan measure could rebuild nation's roads, infrastructure

Taxpayers should encourage their federal lawmakers to support the Partnership to Build America Act so Michigan — and every other state, for that matter — can improve its roads.

The measure, officially House Resolution 2084, would create the American Infrastructure Fund to pay for the rebuilding of our country’s transportation, energy, communications, water and education infrastructure.

More than that, it would create incentives for companies to invest at home rather than abroad.

The AIF would be funded by the sale of $50 billion in bonds that would  have a 50-year term, pay a fixed interest rate of 1 percent, and would not be guaranteed by the U.S. government, according to a website explaining the program.

U.S. corporations would be incentivized to purchase these new infrastructure bonds by allowing them to repatriate a certain amount of their overseas earnings tax free for every $1 they invest in the bonds. 

The AIF could leverage the $50 billion of bonds at a 15:1 ratio to provide up to $750 billion in loans or guarantees.

The AIF would provide loans or guarantees to state or local governments to finance qualified infrastructure projects. The states or local governments would be required to pay back the loan at a market rate determined by the AIF, but this is something states would have a hard time doing on their own. There would be no federal taxpayer obligation.

HR 2084 was introduced last year by U.S. Rep. John Delaney, a Democrat from Maryland. It is a rare bipartisan measure in Congress, with 50 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives evenly divided between the two parties.

It was also introduced in the U.S. Senate last month by a small bipartisan group of senators.

Sadly  — incredibly, actually — none of the sponsors is from Michigan. That’s a shame because Michigan’s highway needs are plain for all drivers to see everyday.

A report released last month by TRIP, a national transportation research group, said Michigan’s bad roads cost the state’s residents
approximately $7.7 billion annually in the form of additional
vehicle operating costs, lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion and traffic crashes.

That translates to an individual cost of $1,600 for Detroit area drivers, where 57 percent of major roadways are in poor or mediocre  condition.

Plus, highway conditions are critical to economic development.

“Increasingly, companies are looking at the quality of a region’s transportation system when deciding where to relocate or expand,” the TRIP study said. “Regions with congested or poorly maintained roads may see businesses relocate to areas with a smoother, more efficient and more modern transportation system.”

Our federal lawmakers need to hear from citizens. They need to put Michigan’s interests ahead of any narrow partisan considerations.

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