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Public Statements

Protecting Medicare and Rebuilding our Infrastructure

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. TONKO. Sure. Absolutely. And you know the impact of Sandy, Representative Garamendi, comes on the heels of last year's storms with Irene and Lee, a double whammy that impacted several counties that I represent. And upstate New York was devastated. There was a loss of lives, there was destruction to the public infrastructure. Many businesses, farms and housing were destroyed, tremendously so; and the need to rebuild became very apparent.

This year, with Sandy, the same sort of impact, this time in a very densely populated region of New York City, Long Island, and the southern portions of New York State. And so I think it's a stark reminder, a very real example, a very painful outcome that speaks to the need of investing, investing in our infrastructure.

As we go forward, there's also an opportunity to improve upon what existed at the time of these storms. For instance, in the energy networks, the utility networks, we can do state-of-the-art. We have taught other nations how to build those systems. It's time to do nation-building at home.

I think the beauty here is that, while we invest in transportation and other infrastructure, energy infrastructure and water systems and treatment systems and public schools, what we're doing is rippling into the benefits of efficiency, of public safety, of employment and economic development.

That is a positive series of dynamics that then lifts the economy and provides for work. Ninety percent of the jobs, it's projected, that come from this sort of infrastructure investment are speaking to middle-income households--jobs that, again, provide for the strengthening of our economy, the reduction of our deficit, the confidence-building in our economy that is so powerfully felt as we walk this distance from the recession, as we continue to do the steady climb upward as we grow private sector jobs. This is an important part of it. It enhances our productivity. It provides for efficiencies. That's what infrastructure investment is about. And it's calculated that for every $1 billion of investment, 18,000 jobs are created and a sound public service is designed and structured and built so that we can go forward with rightful anticipation of a stronger tomorrow for our economy.

And so I think these are important elements, rebuilding after Mother Nature has impacted us with very profound damages to our communities--and building in a way that allows for the creation of jobs and an improved outcome, to top it off.

When the Representative from Pennsylvania, Representative Altmire, talked about the Minnesota situation, I served in the State Assembly in New York when the collapse of a thruway bridge in upstate New York took 10 lives. We recently commemorated the 25th anniversary of that event back in 1987 and the painful consequences that came to bear upon that upstate region, where commerce was affected, where jobs were affected, where public safety was compounded. They took the major artery of the State of New York with the thruway and had to reroute that through a community by establishing a makeshift system. And just the presence of that moment onto the economic consequences of the State spoke painfully well of how important infrastructure is.

And so we look at the needs in this Nation from coast-to-coast, from your west coast to our east coast, and we understand that there are needs for those water treatment facilities, for our energy infrastructure. We're wheeling electrons along a system that was designed for regional service, and now we're wheeling not only from region to region but State to State. We're wheeling electronics from nation to nation. Canada into the United States.

We need an upgrade. We need the sort of R&D component that translates into jobs that provide the best investment possible. And that's what we're calling for here--the sound stewardship of resources and Federal tax dollars being utilized in a way that provides the strongest outcome. Sometimes it's in the saga of urgency, as is the case with Sandy in New York State, as it's been with Irene and Lee, as we continue to recover over a year later from those storms that damaged upstate New York just over a year ago, and now the most recent element of consequence that came with Hurricane Sandy.

So I thank you for bringing us together to shed light, to acknowledge that we can create jobs as we address public safety, as we address efficiency, as we address productivity, as we address economic boost, so that we can walk from this arena here in this House of Representatives knowing that we're doing the sound, academically driven, analytically provided results that will speak to a favorable impact across the board.

Thank you for bringing us together.


Mr. TONKO. Yes, just rather briefly, the opportunity to invest in infrastructure--for an example, our water treatment facilities. When I was at my last work station prior to entering the House, it was with NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. There I witnessed these consummate professionals working away at retrofitting systems or designing new that dealt with water treatments. The savings that were anticipated--that were measured in some cases--were significant so that the energy cost for local governments doing their role, performing their role for treatment of water became much cheaper. Those are savings that are recurring. So that while we invest in this opportunity, we're also chipping away at those budget costs into the future. The same is true of some of the research investment that found us, for example, capturing waste heat and getting more bang for the buck, so to speak, for the investments made in energy systems.

The American intellect, which has always served as our DNA for discovery--you know, we are proud of our pioneer spirit of this Nation. It drove an industrial revolution, it inspired a westward movement, and it created from mill town capacity these epicenters of invention and innovation. Well, we still have that within our core spirit. If we can come up with the innovative ideas, the concepts that allow us to serve the taxpayer with more useful outcomes of their investments, it is beholden upon us to provide the climate by which to do that.

Earlier, our colleague, Representative Higgins from New York, spoke of the mitigation opportunities now facing New York with its repair of its infrastructure. If we can do the preventative measures that provide for longer life expectancy for these investments, isn't that not only the wise thing to do, isn't that the responsible thing to do?

So there are ways that we can move forward in a transitional sort of format where it's ever impacting to a favorable outcome of operating costs into the future, of research investments that's translating into job creation, and then the infrastructure build that takes to mind the concepts, the intellectual capacity of this Nation. It also speaks to the wisdom of responding to infrastructure repair, replacement, new construction that looks statistically at the data that are collected that speak to the impacts of global warming and climate change.

If we were to, for instance, rebuild exactly as the infrastructure in my upstate district after the impact of these storms, it would be foolish. We need to adjust the span length. We need to adjust the height of this infrastructure so that it is accounting for the dynamics of change that are real, that are recorded, that are statistically valid. We need to do that in a way that brings this investment into the job-creation zone that it is.

As we stated earlier, as I made mention earlier, for every $1 billion of investment in infrastructure, we can anticipate, rightfully, 18,000 jobs being created, 90 percent of which are finding their way into the middle-income community. This is what it's about. It's not about this cost-cutting frenzy that denies opportunity, denies our responsibility that we all bear here, but, rather, inspires us to belt-tighten, where we get rid of outmoded programs and where we most effectively invest in the improvements, the repairs, the replacements that are under our stewardship.


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