Today, an amendment to the economic stimulus package that would have added $25 billion in extra infrastructure spending failed to pass the Senate. As we noted earlier, the amendment contained an unfortunate amount of highway funding, which dwarfed mass transit investments. However, there was funding in the amendment worth salvaging: a $7 billion boost for water infrastructure projects. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) took to the Senate floor today to explain:
This amendment also increases investments in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. We are so far behind on those programs…A recent EPA study, Mr. president, you’ll be interested in this, found that failure to increase investment in water and wastewater infrastructure could result in a $500 billion water infrastructure gap in the next 20 years…So let’s invest in water infrastructure.
In a report released last week, the American Society for Civil Engineers noted that “leaky pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water every day, while aging sewage systems send billions of gallons of untreated wastewater into waterways each year.” This seems like a worthy problem to address with stimulus dollars, instead of spending them on highways, facilitating greenhouse gas emissions and urban sprawl.
Currently, local governments contribute 98 percent of the total investment in wastewater infrastructure and 95 percent in water infrastructure. Lessening this burden with the stimulus will quicken the pace at which these critical systems are repaired, while at the same time creating jobs. The Senate should definitely up the number of these investments, and dump highway funding by the wayside.
The Senate is planning to vote on amendments to the economic stimulus package today. As CQ reported:
The first amendment scheduled for debate is a proposal from Patty Murray, D‑Wash., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would boost the bill’s highway funding from $27 billion to $40 billion and its transit funding from $8.4 billion to $13.4 billion.
While it would be great to boost transit funding by $5 billion, the simultaneous $13 billion boost in highway funding would exacerbate the already terrible ratio of transit to highway funds in the stimulus package.
There are legitimate repairs to troubled roads that should be made. But widespread spending on new highways will come back to bite us — down the line, the ramifications of encouraging more urban sprawl and gas consumption will hardly be worth the stimulus gained now. When the same stimulus dollars could be used to create construction jobs that lay the foundation for a green economy, it would be tragic to blow them buildings roads just for the sake of building roads.
Senator DeMint’s plan would limit “itemized deductions to include only home mortgage interest and charitable contributions.” This means eliminating deductions which lower state and local tax burdens and help students pay for college, sick families pay medical bills, and teachers purchase supplies for their classrooms.
According to a Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis of IRS data, the DeMint plan would take away deductions from 45 million families who pay state and local taxes, 10 million families with steep medical expenses, 7.5 million families paying off college loans, and 3.4 million teachers who buy supplies for their students.