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Pa. Legislators Disagree on Necessity of Infrastructure Bill

U.S. Congress members who represent Pennsylvania are split on Biden's infrastructure bill — some are enthusiastic about what it can do for the country, while others argue the legislation wastes too much money.

Construction of highway overpass bridge infrastructure in progress
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(TNS) — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Tuesday said the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will bring billions of dollars to Pennsylvania to improve roads and bridges, increase access to public transportation, build out clean energy infrastructure, expand broadband and more.

Pennsylvania's other senator, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, said while there is a need to expand and maintain the nation's real, physical infrastructure, the legislation is "too expensive, too expansive, too unpaid for and too threatening to the innovative cryptocurrency economy."

Casey, D-Scranton, said President Joe Biden fulfilled his promise to the American people by signing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law on Monday.

"This bipartisan legislation will make transportation easier, safer and more sustainable," Casey said. "It will expand broadband access, invest in climate mitigation and provide many Pennsylvanians with clean drinking water. These investments will support the economic growth of small towns across the nation, and rural and urban areas alike. Next, the Senate has to finish work on legislation to support families and address the rising costs that they face, such as investing in home and community-based services for seniors and people with disabilities, raising wages for home care workers, expanding access to early childhood education and affordable child care, cutting taxes for families with kids and lowering health care costs."

Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, said federal infrastructure spending should be driven by a reasoned assessment of the nation's needs.

"But this process was driven by Democratic political imperatives rather than necessity," Toomey said. "As a result, much of the bill's spending on actual infrastructure is excessive — such as the $107 billion for transit even as nearly $40 billion in transit 'COVID' money remains unspent. Worse, the bill funnels billions to projects that the private sector has been more than willing to fund, such as ferries, EV charging stations and the power grid. It also showers taxpayer dollars on items, like Pacific salmon conservation, tree planting and demolishing 'racist' highways, that cannot be considered infrastructure at all."

Casey said in Pennsylvania, there are more than 3,300 bridges and over 7,540 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 7.6% in Pennsylvania, and on average, each driver pays $620 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair.

Casey said the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will send $11.3 billion to Pennsylvania for federal-aid highway programs and $1.6 billion for bridge replacement and repairs over 5 years.

Casey said Pennsylvania can expect $2.8 billion over five years to improve public transportation across the Commonwealth, meaning reliable transit for workers and families.

Also, Casey said under this legislation, Pennsylvania will receive a minimum of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage to the more than 390,000 Pennsylvanians currently living without it, while another $37 billion will be allocated across the nation — including in Pennsylvania — utilizing a needs-based formula.

Toomey said despite promises this legislation would be entirely paid for, the bill instead adds hundreds of billions to an already staggering deficit when about $1 trillion in unspent "COVID relief" is still available for re-purposing.

"This comes on the heels of $4 trillion to combat a pandemic, a $2 trillion liberal wish-list rushed through by Democrats on a partisan basis in March and the specter of another $3.5 trillion monstrosity that would radically redefine the very role of the federal government in the lives of middle-class Americans," Toomey said. "To put this in perspective, Congress could pass over a quarter of our nation's GDP this year in new spending."

PA.'S CLEAN ENERGY OPTIONS


Casey said the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides funding for the first-ever national network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers, including $171 million for Pennsylvania to expand its EV charging network and lead efforts to address the climate crisis and support American manufacturing jobs.

Casey also said the legislation would send $1.4 billion to Pennsylvania to replace lead pipes, improve water infrastructure and deliver clean, safe drinking water across the Commonwealth.

Airports in Pennsylvania would receive approximately $355 million for infrastructure development over five years.

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic said, "This infrastructure investment will create good-paying jobs and make the U.S. more competitive with every other country in the world."

"These investments will make it possible for us to put Northeastern Pennsylvania back on the passenger rail map, rebuild the roads and bridges that have been falling apart, bring high-speed broadband Internet to every rural area, reclaim and revitalize all of our abandoned mine lands and so much more," Cartwright said.

Cartwright said according to a recent report by IHS Markit, funding for road and transit projects in Pennsylvania will grow the Commonwealth's economy by an additional $3.5 billion each year for the next five years.

"Additionally, the growth produced by these investments is estimated to boost Pennsylvanians' disposable income by $1.35 billion each year for the next five years," Cartwright said.

U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Dallas, said he has strongly supported a standalone transportation, infrastructure and revitalization bill for months, and he worked hard with his colleagues on a bill that would benefit Pennsylvanians and the American people.

"I could not, however, support spending $5 trillion of taxpayer dollars when I support only the 20% dedicated to hard infrastructure and I believe most of the other 80% would be detrimental to our economy, national security and global competitiveness," Meuser said.

©2021 The Times Leader, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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