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Monday, May 23, 2022

OPINION:

As a long-time Florida resident, engineer, small-business owner, and legislator, I have witnessed how strong infrastructure helps our families, businesses, and communities thrive and our nation maintain a competitive advantage in a diverse, changing world. Throughout my public service and as a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have focused on policies and projects that ensure people and goods can move effectively and efficiently across our state.

America’s infrastructure is long overdue for critical repairs and much-needed advancements. While federal investment in infrastructure is vital, covering the ongoing and increasing costs of infrastructure with taxpayer dollars alone is not sustainable, nor can it meet our nation’s needs. Last year, I introduced a key legislative solution which will facilitate private infrastructure investments. This proposal will complement existing federal programs and encourage states and local governments to pursue all available funding sources, without putting the burden on American taxpayers. The Infrastructure Bank of America (IBA) which will be re-introduced next month will be a government-sponsored enterprise structured to serve as a wholesale lender to infrastructure projects through state and local governments, state infrastructure banks and private entities. All without spending a single taxpayer dollar.


The Bank, structured similarly to the Federal Home Loan Bank System, encourages private investment through tax incentives for those investments during the first three years of IBA operation. This approach differs from prior Infrastructure Bank proposals in that it will be entirely capitalized by private investment. Infrastructure banks have already successfully complemented existing funding programs across the world, including U.S. state infrastructure banks.

IBA investments would not be overly restrictive by project type and can help finance surface transportation projects, ports, electric grid security, broadband connectivity, and the revitalization of Main Street USA. The IBA will set aside a minimum of seven percent of the dollar amount of loans and loan guarantees to rural areas for rural infrastructure projects.

In addition to funding new and existing infrastructure projects, the IBA will also create an estimated 12 million direct jobs and nearly 25 million indirect jobs. Over a 10-year period, the IBA is estimated to increase federal tax revenue by $500 billion. The IBA will also have the authority to issue equity securities and bonds, with an initial goal of raising $1 billion and will be required to maintain a 10:1 debt-to-equity ratio for issuance of bonds of up to $1 trillion.

I am passionate about investing in our country’s infrastructure and have worked diligently to improve our transportation systems, while strengthening efficiency and finding innovative solutions that improve how we spend taxpayer dollars.

The IBA is the answer to America’s current and future infrastructure needs.

When Republicans held the majority in the House, we worked closely with Democrats on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to pass bipartisan “highway bills” that fund roads and bridges. However, this Congress, Republicans were largely locked out of the development of recent transportation and infrastructure bills. Although there is bipartisan consensus on this issue, the sheer magnitude of needed investment exceeds the budget and borrowing capacity of states and the federal government. The requirement is far beyond what can be funded through the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It is my hope that my Democratic and Republican colleagues will embrace the opportunity to approve the IBA and after passage, encourage their state and local governments to identify priority projects and initiate private capital solutions.

While foreign adversaries like China attract billions of dollars from American investments into infrastructure projects, the IBA will provide incentives for these investments to be made right here in the United States. The IBA renews our commitment to America and accomplishes the revitalization of our nation’s infrastructure while rebuilding the economy all without placing the burden of investment on America’s taxpayers. The Infrastructure Bank for America will help rebuild our nation and strengthen our economic competitiveness on the global stage.

• U.S. Representative Daniel Webster, Florida Republican, is a family man and small-business owner representing the state’s 11th Congressional District. He serves as the Ranking Member of the Economic Development, Public Buildings, Emergency Management Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.


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