As Congress continues to weigh a proposed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, is urging the White House to include a national infrastructure bank in the final package.
Rep. Carbajal is hopeful that such a bank would address funding shortfalls now and in years to come.
The national infrastructure bank, which is being proposed by Rep. Carbajal and 19 other members of Congress, would secure federal and private dollars to address funding needs for infrastructure projects.
The infrastructure bank would not use taxpayer funding, but would instead allow pension funds to invest in the bank in exchange for a small return. That would allow local governments to apply for low-interest loans to complete infrastructure projects.
A group of representatives in favor of the infrastructure bank sent a letter to President Joe Biden last week, asking him to consider the inclusion of a national infrastructure bank in the final infrastructure package. The lawmakers explained that infrastructure is a “key component of America’s ability to maintain a global competitive edge” and that an infrastructure bank would provide self-sustaining funding for future projects.
“This is a very safe, additional funding tool that could certainly enhance the other funding streams from the federal government that would help modernize our local infrastructure and create jobs along the way,” Rep. Carbajal told the News-Press Wednesday. “This will not only continue to move forward the ideals of modernizing our infrastructure, but in the process, help create jobs and that will be really good for our economy.”
The national infrastructure bank proposal from Rep. Carbajal and other members of Congress comes as the $1.2 billion infrastructure bill is facing opposition in the Senate this week. On Wednesday, Republican senators blocked a vote on the bill in an effort to push for more time to iron out details of the proposed package.
As it currently stands, the infrastructure bill would disperse $1.2 trillion in funding over the next eight years, with $579 in new spending. About $125 billion of the new spending would be allocated to roads, bridges and waterway improvements, and $115 billion would be designated for public transit and passenger rail updates. Another $120 billion would be allocated for water and broadband infrastructure.
While there is bipartisan interest in Congress to pass an infrastructure bill, the legislative hang-up centers on how to pay for it.
As negotiations in Congress continue, Rep. Carbajal said he believes adding an infrastructure bank to the package could help solve future funding for infrastructure projects and shore up existing shortfalls.
“I really think the national infrastructure bank is another sweetener to induce bipartisan collaboration and hopefully achieve the type of bipartisan bill we want to achieve,” Rep. Carbajal said.
To give legislative backing to the national infrastructure bank, Rep. Carbajal has also reintroduced the National Infrastructure Investment Corporation Act, which outlines how the bank would operate.
According to the proposed bill, a board of seven directors, appointed by Congress and the president, would oversee the administration of funds to finance infrastructure projects. The board would vet infrastructure project proposals and award grants from the funds secured in the national infrastructure bank.
While his bill is still in the early stages, Rep. Carbajal said the national infrastructure bank concept has bipartisan support among members of Congress and companies across the board. He also feels optimistic that the president will be in favor of this model, and he is hopeful it will be added to the infrastructure bill before it is finalized.
“Certainly this is a low hanging fruit, a no-brainer of a concept because there’s no price tag to the taxpayer or federal government,” Rep. Carbajal said. “Why wouldn’t we include this as a viable funding program that would help local governments have yet another tool anchored by private funds?”