At yesterday's Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Senator Warner questioned witnesses about how creating a national infrastructure bank could help American trade remain globally competitive. He highlighted the need to upgrade American infrastructure while striking a balance between near-term fiscal discipline and investment in future growth.
"I just worry," said Senator Warner, "As someone who feels like we've got to protect taxpayer funds and that we need this infrastructure investment, that if we want to avoid future Solyndras we ought to put any of this national-level financing in an independent, separate entity that would not be able to have political influence but would have the project finance expertise."
"My hope is that this will be something we can agree on," he continued, "That if we're going to stay competitive, we've got to have infrastructure that is competitive with the rest of the world, and we've got to be creative about how to do that."
The hearing's witnesses, prominent members of the American businesses community, seconded Senator Warner's conclusion.
"Any mechanism by which we can direct funds to our highway system and our bridge needs for improvement," responded Phil Byrd, a member of the American Trucking Association's board of directors, "we are very interested in looking at."
Jeff Keever, the Deputy Executive Director of the Virginia Port Authority, agreed. "Absolutely," he responded when asked by Senator Warner if he would support a national infrastructure bank. "I think something like that would provide another opportunity to advance the infrastructure that is woefully needed to accommodate continued growth."
"There are opportunities on the port side, the rail side, and the road side," Keever continued. "International trade is not going to diminish, it's going to grow, and we need to be prepared for that as we go forward. Many of our facilities are in need of improvement, and I think this concept would be very, very beneficial."
Senator Warner was a lead cosponsor of 2011's BUILD Act, a bipartisan bill that called for the creation of a national infrastructure bank. He estimates that a $10 billion federal investment could leverage as much as $500 in infrastructure projects largely financed by the private sector. In 2013, he has been working on similar legislation with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.