Why Building Tomorrow Must Begin Today
May 15, 2019
Shannon Manning, Senior Vice President, Strategic Communications & Engagement
President Trump announced his first $1 trillion infrastructure plan during 2017’s Infrastructure Week, promising to cut regulatory red tape to get projects started quickly and leverage private capital through public-private partnerships. Now we are celebrating 2019’s Infrastructure Week, and yet another revamped version of his plan is coming back on the radar at the White House and in the media and igniting fresh debates in Congress.
It’s been two years, Congress is still arguing about the plan, and we’ve made no headway in securing a deal. So, what’s taking so long?
This year’s Infrastructure Week theme—#BuildForTomorrow. Starting Now. —underscores perhaps the most salient point about infrastructure: it takes long-term planning and investment. We have to commit today to the infrastructure we want to have available next year or even five, ten, fifty years from now. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and even in a world of instant access, 24-hour news, and one-hour Amazon delivery, reengineering our nation’s infrastructure requires both time and money.
Infrastructure, as such a vital part of our society, economy, and quality of life, has broad support on both sides of the aisle. It should be one policy area where Democrats and Republicans can work together to demonstrate leadership—real governance—not just politicking. But bipartisanship has become a negative in some circles, the ability to achieve compromise is waning, and appropriations for a proposed now $2 trillion plan continue to stall.
Everyone agrees our infrastructure is in a massive, even dangerous, state of disrepair. Conversely, almost no one agrees on what our infrastructure priorities should be and how we should pay for them. Therein lies the challenge, as agreement on such questions, let alone long-term policy commitments, is increasingly rare in our current political climate even when agreement is critically necessary. The longer we delay on finding a policy solution for our infrastructure, the bigger the eventual price tag will become.
One solution to cutting through the red tape is advocacy – which can shore up and solidify congressional support for our national infrastructure. Every year, more organizations in Washington, DC, and across the country are joining the conversation and broadening awareness about the impact of infrastructure across industries and sectors. The National Governors Association (NGA)’s, for example, just released an outline of their key priorities to build federal-state partnerships. The U.S. Travel Association has an entire page on their website dedicated to the issue. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has introduced the “Let’s Rebuild America” initiative. There are also voter movements, like Voices for Public Transit, specifically structured to advocate for an essential component of our infrastructure: mobility. These efforts demonstrate a new wave of attention and a calibrated push to prioritize this issue on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures, and across local communities.
With public outcry surrounding the issue growing louder and a presidential election year on the horizon, both Democrats and Republicans need to prioritize this matter—not simply to generate campaign sound bites, but to finish meaningful legislation that shows our leaders can come together to get things done. Our country’s bridges, highways, water systems, electric grid, telecommunications networks, and public transportation systems all need help. These systems have a significant impact on the American people and organizations throughout this country and that impact is not exclusively Republican or Democratic. Both parties could achieve a win from working together to invest in our nation’s infrastructure and go into 2020 having made a commitment to the American public that things that impact everyone’s day to day life will get better.