Surprising many of us, President Obama proposed two new infrastructure programs in his State of the Union speech earlier this evening.
A “Fix-It-First” program would focus on putting “people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs” like deteriorating bridges and roads. A “Partnership to Rebuild America” would attract private capital to upgrade port infrastructure, pipelines, schools, and likely other infrastructure.
The White House issued a fact sheet after the speech that provides only a few more details about the proposals:
“A “Fix it First” program to focus on our most urgent infrastructure repairs: Under this approach the President’s proposal for $50 billion in frontloaded infrastructure investment includes $40 billion that would be targeted to the most urgent upgrades, like the 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. In addition, the President is continuing to call for a long-term increase in surface transportation and rail funding financed by reductions in spending due to ending the wars, marking a major commitment to nation building here at home.”
The White House has proposed funding infrastructure and other programs using the “peace dividend” before. Republicans and some Democrats have been cool or outright opposed to the idea.
So now we wait to see if and how the President and the White House staff will follow through. And how the programs will be paid for. The President has announced proposals and ideas in the past, but didn’t follow through with the weight of the White House office to press Congress for action.
Here’s the prepared speech text of the section on infrastructure (the delivered remarks didn’t really deviate). Read the entire speech on the White House website.
“America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts. I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.
Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children. Let’s prove that there is no better place to do business than the United States of America. And let’s start right away.
Part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. Today, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years, home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.
But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it. Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill. Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.
These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, and housing will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs.”