Infrastructure is one of the smartest investments we can make in our country. It allows businesses to grow and compete; it keeps us safe; it creates millions of jobs—good paying jobs that cannot be outsourced overseas, and, it’s bipartisan. It’s one of the first things President Trump said he wanted to get done after he was elected.
The time has come to work together to get this done, and get it done right. We cannot let another year go by without action.
The good news is, there are bipartisan solutions already on the table. As a member of the Commerce and Agriculture committees, I have long supported leveraging direct funding and public-private partnerships to rebuild and reinvest in our infrastructure. One bipartisan idea I’ve been working on is to create an infrastructure bank that would help increase private sector infrastructure spending. It would also direct funding to projects in rural areas so that smaller communities can make much-needed infrastructure improvements. This type of innovative financing tool could jump start critical projects in Minnesota and across the country.
But, we can’t rely on publicprivate partnerships alone to fund projects. Direct federal funding is essential, especially in rural America. In many parts of our country where communities are spread out and not as densely populated it can be difficult to attract private investment. These communities depend on federal dollars to maintain and upgrade their infrastructure and stay competitive. That is why I will not support proposals that are unfair to rural communities.
One area that relies on direct federal investment is rural broadband. Broadband is the perfect infrastructure investment. It creates jobs, opens new economic opportunities for the communities we connect, and keeps America competitive in an increasingly digital world. Just this week, as co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, I led a bipartisan effort to get dedicated, stand-alone funding for broadband deployment in an infrastructure proposal to ensure telecommunications infrastructure is prioritized alongside needed upgrades to our roads, rail, waterways, and bridges. A serious plan for the 21st century is not complete without addressing the broadband connectivity issues facing rural America.
I know we can work across the aisle to invest in America’s infrastructure because we’ve done it before.
In 2012, Congress passed bipartisan legislation I worked on to allow the St. Croix River bridge project to move forward after 30 years of delay, and this past August the new bridge was completed. After more than 50 years, Windom and other communities along Highway 60 will soon be able to travel on a fourlane highway to get to the Twin Cities. Highway 53 on the Iron Range now features a new fourlane bridge—the tallest in the entire state–that connects Eveleth and Virginia.
We also recently passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a bipartisan bill that increased transportation funding—including giving Minnesota more than $4 billion in funding over five years—and helped provide certainty to local governments planning critical projects across the country. This is a good start, but we can’t stop now. In an increasingly competitive global economy, standing still is falling behind. We can’t leave infrastructure— something that has always been an area for bipartisan agreement– on the side of the road for another year. When it comes to roads, bridges and rail, you either build them or you don’t. Talk isn’t enough. There are good bipartisan ideas out there that we can take action on right now. Let’s get to work.