- - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

America’s infrastructure is a major part of our daily lives. It covers everything from the roads we drive on to the pipes that bring water into our homes.

This infrastructure is also deteriorating. It is vital that we upgrade and maintain these aging systems.

President Trump and Republicans in Congress agree that we need a robust, fiscally responsible infrastructure plan that works for all of America.

Last month, the president released his priorities. His plan includes making a serious investment in the nation’s infrastructure. It also streamlines burdensome permitting requirements and makes sure Washington is working as a partner with local governments.

Any infrastructure strategy needs to include all of America. The president’s plan makes rural communities, like those in my home state of Wyoming, a priority. At least one out of every four dollars spent will go to rural parts of the country.

People in Wyoming continue to tell me we need to speed up Washington’s sluggish approval process for important infrastructure projects. Developers shouldn’t have to wait a decade for permits on a project that will take only months to complete. The president’s plan calls for a two-year time limit on the permitting process. This is a commonsense idea that will help get projects done faster, better, cheaper and smarter.

The Republican Congress is working with President Trump to move forward on infrastructure. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, I am working to pass legislation to preserve our infrastructure in a way that strengthens the economy and protects families.

The committee I chair held the first congressional hearing on the president’s plan last month. We heard encouraging testimony on the needs of the nation from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and R.D. James, the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Congress has already made a serious down payment on the president’s infrastructure investment plans. In January, we passed the bipartisan budget agreement, which includes $20 billion for infrastructure over the next two years. If we sustain that funding level over a decade, we already would be half way to the amount proposed by the White House.

We can responsibly get the remaining money by cutting government waste. Out of the $4.4 trillion Washington spends each year, surely we can find an extra $10 billion to fix our highways, bridges and water systems.

Infrastructure has always been a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats want to get this done. Our committee has already made significant progress on legislation to address America’s water infrastructure needs. Our bill will include upgrades for water systems, flood prevention, ports, dams and shipping lanes. Water infrastructure is a large portion of the president’s plan and both parties are working together to get it right.

Another priority for President Trump is the redevelopment of old, polluted infrastructure sites, commonly called “brownfields.” Cleaning up these areas will make them functional again. Working with Democrats, we have also made great progress on legislation to address these sites. This bipartisan spirit needs to extend to roads and bridges as well.

Earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats released an infrastructure plan that is just not serious. The Democrats’ outline would pay for infrastructure projects by raising taxes on American families and businesses.

Their plan is to reverse much of the tax-relief law passed by Republicans just last year. Nine out of 10 American workers have seen an increase in their take-home pay because of the law. Now Democrats want to take their hard-earned money away from them. This plan is less about fixing roads and bridges and more about raising taxes. America needs a fiscally responsible infrastructure plan that will help, not hurt, economic growth.

Despite the fact that Democrats don’t seem serious about doing anything right now on roads and bridges, our committee will continue to push forward. We have already held 11 hearings on the issue and I believe we can get this done. I invite Democrats to join us in that process.

We all drive on America’s bridges and highways. We all use the water that comes from our faucets. Let’s use this opportunity to pass major infrastructure legislation that will grow our economy, make our communities safer and keep our nation prosperous.

Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.


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