For economic stimulus, Congress should support bipartisan transportation policies

For economic stimulus, Congress should support bipartisan transportation policies
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

As we see rising unemployment across the country resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are looking to Congress for much-needed relief. While there is an ongoing debate regarding the best way to provide a stimulus to our economy, one thing that both sides of the political aisle can agree on is the need for a transportation infrastructure package that will create shovel-ready jobs and infuse local communities and states with needed financial resources.

It’s been reported that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been encouraging President Donald Trump to support a plan to put more money into infrastructure projects to help speed along the economic recovery. And this sentiment has been reiterated by key Republican Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who want to pump money into roads, bridges and other transportation projects.

Democrats have also been strong proponents of an expansive infrastructure package, with House Democrats introducing a $760 billion infrastructure plan earlier this year. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi also recently expressed support for funding infrastructure improvements.

Given that an infrastructure package will need to pass both the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate, any infrastructure bill will need to have bipartisan support. One key transportation infrastructure proposal that the Senate has already proven to have bipartisan support for is incentivizing private sector investment into electric vehicle charging infrastructure. This is proven by the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last summer.

This bill included a provision that was supported by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Tom Carper (D-DE), as well as a bipartisan majority of the committee, that included $300 million in grants to support the private sector construction of charging stations for electric vehicles. These grants were specifically stipulated to support private sector investment, because the Senators understood that the best thing for widespread infrastructure is incentivizing private investment.

Promoting the private sector construction of charging stations will also create jobs while helping Americans looking to transition to more fuel-efficient vehicles. Besides this policy garnering bipartisan support, it also ensures that there is fair competition in the market for building and operating charging stations.

Some proposals that are aimed at increasing the number of charging stations have allowed utility companies to use funds from their electric customers, increasing the electric bills on all the company’s customers, to build charging stations. This policy makes it impossible for private sector businesses to fairly compete in this market, since they would have to use their own funds to build the infrastructure. Meaning, having utility consumers pay for these projects would stunt the development of this infrastructure.

As the House Transportation Committee, led by Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), looks to create an infrastructure package that will help stimulate our economy, I hope they support bipartisan solutions that will pass the Senate quickly.

Republicans have been signaling that the Senate will have to move in June on another pandemic recovery package, which will be spurred on by representatives seeing firsthand the economic devastation that the shutdown has caused on their communities during the Memorial Day recess. As Congress looks to bipartisan solutions to provide an economic infusion into our economy, a bipartisan transportation infrastructure package that incentivizes and leverages private investment would be a good place to start.

Katlyn Batts is a contributor at RedState.com.

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