We disagree about President Barack Obama’s job proposal, and we have very different views about why America continues to be mired in economic doldrums, and what it will take for the nation to recover.
Nevertheless, we were both pleased when the president recently embraced an idea that, as he said, “came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat ... the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike.”
That legislation is “The Building and Upgrading Infrastructure for Long-term Development Act” (BUILD Act), which we introduced this spring, along with senators Mark Warner, D-Va., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Our legislation, which is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, creates a national infrastructure bank — a concept also supported by the AFL-CIO.
This approach is an innovative way to leverage private-public partnerships and maximize public funding to address our urgent national and regional water, transportation and energy infrastructure needs — while protecting the taxpayer from wasteful spending.
We believe a properly structured infrastructure bank might gain the bipartisan support needed for our bill to become law this year.
Our bill is straightforward: A one-time, $10 billion expenditure, which we both have agreed to offset, establishes the bank.
The bank’s goal is to become self-sufficient over time and not rely on ongoing conditional appropriations.
Strictly underwritten loans and loan guarantees from the bank would be matched by private-sector investment and local governments.
Federal grants would not be allowed as a match.
Furthermore, our legislation requires that our applicants not only have a strong financial base, but that the projects are able to repay the loans through dedicated revenue streams. We want and expect these loans to get paid back. The safeguards in the bill are essential to protect taxpayers from being left holding the bill for politically inspired projects that don’t make good business sense.
Our infrastructure bank approach could leverage up to $640 billion in new infrastructure investment over the next 10 years, from capital now sitting on the sidelines.
The projects this infrastructure bank could support would strengthen our competitiveness, be good for businesses, and could help lower our staggering 9.1 percent unemployment rate.
For too long we’ve underbuilt and underinvested, and too much of what we have done has been uninformed by any long-term strategic plan.
Inadequate infrastructure undermines the productivity and efficiency of American workers and businesses.
For example, the U.S. economy loses $80 billion dollars a year due to energy blackouts because of outdated transmission and grid infrastructure. In 2008, it was estimated that we had to make an annual investment of $225 billion for the next 50 years to legitimately meet our transportation needs.
Right now, we aren’t even close to that — and Washington’s budget mess means we must find creative ways to do more with less.
A national infrastructure bank is a perfect example of how we can do this — by helping put private investment to work.
There are a few significant differences between our legislation and the president’s proposal — and, not surprisingly, as a Democrat and a Republican, we disagree about some of these issues on the basis of long-held principles.
We’re committed to solving these differences because we’re focused on the big picture: A well-designed, bipartisan infrastructure bank that will spur energy, water, roads and rail development, create millions of American jobs in the next decade, and make our country more competitive globally.
• Kerry is a fifth-term Democratic senator from Massachusetts. Bailey Hutchison is a fourth-term Republican from Texas. Readers may write to Kerry at 218 Senate Russell Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, and to Hutchison at 284 Senate Russell Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510.