A bipartisan coalition of ten U.S. Senators introduced legislation today to establish a new infrastructure financing authority to help states and localities better leverage private funds to build and maintain the nation's outdated infrastructure. The Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment Act, or BRIDGE Act, helps to address the nation's alarming investment shortfall in maintaining and improving our transportation network, water and wastewater systems and energy infrastructure. The legislation would provide an additional financing tool for states and localities which can create new jobs here at home while also increasing our nation's economic competitiveness.
The BRIDGE Act, introduced by lead sponsors Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), is cosponsored by Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dean Heller (R-NV), Chris Coons (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).
America currently spends roughly two percent of its GDP on infrastructure -- about half what it did 50 years ago. By comparison, Europe spends around 5%, and China spends 9% of GDP on infrastructure. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report, the United States currently ranks 19th among 148 developed countries in overall infrastructure compared to our global competitors.
To begin addressing this shortfall, the BRIDGE Act will establish an independent, nonpartisan financing authority to complement existing U.S. infrastructure funding. The authority would provide loans and loan guarantees to help states and localities fund the most economically viable road, bridge, rail, port, water, sewer, and other significant infrastructure projects. The authority would receive initial seed funding of up to $10 billion, which could incentivize private sector investment and make possible up to $300 billion in total project investment. The authority is structured in a way to make it self-sustaining over time.
"The BRIDGE Act is not a "silver bullet' to magically close America's infrastructure gap, but this bipartisan proposal creates smart new tools to help our states and localities unlock billions of dollars in additional private investments at a time of very favorable interest rates," Sen. Warner said. "The BRIDGE Act will not only put Americans back to work but also help to expand U.S. commerce and trade, keeping American businesses competitive and creating even more jobs here at home. The BRIDGE Act demonstrates our willingness to work together in a responsible, bipartisan way to get moving on important investment priorities."
"Infrastructure has long been an integral part of our economy. Successful transportation systems connect people and communities, and businesses large and small, and the jobs they create, rely on a strong infrastructure network to connect with their customers," Sen. Blunt said. "This bipartisan legislation will provide a new tool to help finance infrastructure projects, create jobs, and ensure America's global competitiveness in the 21st century."
"Our infrastructure is crumbling and in desperate need of repair," said Sen. Graham. "In South Carolina we have two major infrastructure projects -- the deepening of the Charleston Harbor and construction of I-73 -- which would help grow our economy and create jobs. Now is the time to address our infrastructure needs in order to meet the needs of our economy. I'm open to any and all ideas, but I also know the plan introduced today moves us in the right direction by combining private sector investment in infrastructure with the federal government as a junior partner. Doing nothing hurts our state and national economy in the years to come."
"Investing in transportation infrastructure is one of the fastest, most effective ways to create new jobs," Sen. Gillibrand said. "Our commonsense, bipartisan idea for a public-private partnership can offer the kind of smart, effective financing to keep more major transportation projects on time, and on budget -- keeping our economy on the move, keeping our roads and highways safe, and creating the jobs to do it."
"Ensuring that our nation's infrastructure needs are met is one of the government's primary responsibilities. The bipartisan BRIDGE Act will help provide financing for critical infrastructure in a way that is both responsible and innovative. Nevada's economy depends on safe and accessible transportation infrastructure, which is why I am eager to continue working on this legislation with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle," said Sen. Heller.
"Investments in America's infrastructure are investments in American jobs," Sen. Coons said. "Construction jobs, production jobs, and jobs at nearly every American business all depend on functioning infrastructure. Our country needs to be investing more in its infrastructure, not less. The bipartisan BRIDGE Act is an innovative approach to getting the funding we need to sustain and strengthen America's critical infrastructure."
"In order to meet the demands of the 21st century economy we need a 21st century transportation network," said Sen. Klobuchar. "The BRIDGE Act will help make critical investments in our nation's roads, bridges, ports, waterways and airports and will go a long way to increase safety, improve mobility, and ease congestion."
"I am particularly pleased that the legislation sets aside dedicated funding to rural states, such as Mississippi," Sen. Wicker said. "Attracting private investment in infrastructure is oftentimes too cumbersome and complex for many small towns and counties. This bill would address that problem by streamlining the process and providing much-needed assistance for these rural communities to get the funds they sorely need."
"Illinois' vast network of rivers, highways and railways supports its status as the crossroads of the nation," Sen. Kirk said. "However, our reliance on traditional funding sources has created a tremendous investment backlog. This infrastructure financing tool can provide new funding avenues for critical commerce corridors, and boost public-private partnerships. I am proud to join in this bipartisan effort to help meet our growing infrastructure needs."
· The BRIDGE Act includes broad eligibility for funding:
Projects would have to be at least $50 million in size, and be of national or regional significance to qualify. Five percent of the Authority's overall funding would be dedicated to projects in rural regions, and rural projects would be required to be $10 million in size.
· The BRIDGE Act addresses current gaps in infrastructure financing
The Authority would finance no more than 49 percent of the total costs of the project in order to avoid crowding out private capital. Loans and loan guarantees would be subject to modest additional fees, which will allow the Authority to quickly become self-sustaining over time.
· The BRIDGE Act establishes independent, non-partisan operations:
Having project finance experts in-house will help states and localities go toe-to-toe with private sector partners to ensure that taxpayers are getting good value for our investments through public-private partnerships. The Authority would operate independently of existing federal agencies, led by a Board of Directors with seven voting members and a CEO, all of whom would be required to demonstrate proven expertise in financial management and be confirmed by a vote of the Senate.