Neal Opening Statement at Hearing on Paving the Way for Funding and Financing Infrastructure Investments
Jan 29, 2020
(As prepared for delivery)
Good afternoon, and welcome to our witnesses and audience members. Thank you everyone for being here today.
Our nation’s infrastructure systems have fallen woefully behind those of other similar nations. For our economic competitiveness, safety, and national security, we must invest now in substantial improvements.
Everyone wins when we make meaningful, sustained investments in our nation’s infrastructure. Thoughtful, robust investments will create jobs, revitalize local economies, and help us reduce emissions to address the climate crisis.
Infrastructure development creates good-paying jobs for hard-working Americans. From civil engineers and construction workers, to truck drivers and pipefitters, infrastructure investment offers workers with a range of skills and experience, the opportunity to earn competitive wages.
Today, we will hear testimony from leaders in transportation and infrastructure finance. They will highlight the urgency of the infrastructure crisis and discuss the tools within the tax code to encourage infrastructure investment.
We all recognize the need to fix our roads, bridges, transit, water systems, and electrical grids. With that in mind, we will use this hearing to explore how to best direct our federal infrastructure investments to ensure that we invest wisely.
We will also discuss ways to build on the federal-state partnership that is the cornerstone of America’s infrastructure financing system.
Specifically, we will discuss some of the tools this Committee can use to encourage investments in infrastructure. Tax-preferred bonds are one of our most powerful tools. When we invest in infrastructure, it results in a significant economic multiplier. With each dollar spent, our nation becomes more competitive and prosperous. Tax-preferred bonds allow us to leverage our federal investment dollars, which is essential at a time when the United States faces the largest infrastructure funding gap in the world— 2 trillion dollars by 2025.
I want to specifically highlight one bond finance program that enjoyed extraordinary success even though it was short-lived – the Build America Bonds, or BABs, program. Build America Bonds offered a more efficient way to support state and local governments’ borrowing costs.
This financing tool allowed state and local governments to broaden their investor bases. This, in turn, allowed them to undertake bigger, bolder projects. I tell people who are unfamiliar with the program to look at how airports were built while BABs were in place – they were a critical part of financing these major investments.
Today we will hear testimony in support of reinstating BABs on a permanent basis, with some adjustments to ensure that the program functions optimally.
Finally, as we continue this discussion we need to remember that when we invest in infrastructure, we must ensure that we do so fairly. Infrastructure is not only about financing public projects, but also about encouraging economic development and revitalizing struggling communities.
We must continue to re-invest in both urban and rural neighborhoods through successful programs like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, the New Markets Tax Credit, and the Historic Tax Credit. I have been a long-time supporter of these programs because they have a real, positive impact on our communities. So many of us represent communities that are in distress, and we should work together to do all we can to help them.
As we will hear from our witnesses today, fixing our crumbling infrastructure is an urgent and important goal. We have the tools in our toolbox to make a real investment in America’s economic vitality for years to come.
I recently spoke with Secretary Mnuchin, and the Administration remains supportive of a robust infrastructure package. I look forward to working with the White House and my colleagues to develop a robust infrastructure package this year that will invest in our communities and our nation.
And with that I will recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Brady for an opening statement.