During a meeting of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) questioned Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney about the proposed White House budget, particularly the strategy behind an infrastructure plan that further burdens local communities and residents.
Higgins’ hearing testimony is included below:
“The White House infrastructure plan, in my estimation, is another thinly-veiled hit on local and state taxpayers. For every $6.50 of local and state road and bridge spending, the federal government will spend a dollar. So more state and local taxes to fund roads and bridges, so people get more taxes at the state and local level, they already pay an 18.4 cent-a-gallon gas tax to fund the federal highway fund, and then this plan relies on tolls. So, people at the local and state level will be taxed three times to finance this bill.
Secondly, total spending over the next decade in this plan [on infrastructure] will not exceed $200 billion. Oddly, that amount of federal spending is nearly equal to the amount of U.S. road and bridge spending in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. But, Iraq and Afghanistan get a much better deal. The $180 billion we’ve spent over the last decade, there was no local match, there was no toll roads, and it was entirely deficit financed by the American people, by American taxpayers. So no local match, no gas tax and no toll roads. Every American – Democrat, Republican, and Independent – should find this truth to be sickening and highly insulting.
“On Tuesday, September 25, 2017, I was at a meeting with the President and Members of the House Ways and Means Committee. I personally had asked the President about infrastructure and he categorically rejected the viability, the workability of public-private partnerships. In fact, he pointed to the Vice President, Vice President Pence, and told the entire group (I wasn’t the only one there) that public-private schemes didn’t work and he cited Indiana as a glaring example.
’The Wall Street Journal in August of 2017, the headline was “Indiana Highway Gives Black-Eye to Public-private Partnerships Funding Infrastructure.” The President was referring to a twenty-one mile stretch of highway in Indiana; they call it the “highway to hell.” The project, a private and state partnership, was signed by Vice President Pence back in 2014 when he was the Governor. The project was two years behind schedule and only 60% built before the state took over the entire project and issued debt to finance the project in a more traditional way.
’Nothing here adds up. You not only have a math problem, you have a math problem for certain, but there is also a values problem here, and this is not an America first budget, and I think that the infrastructure piece in this plan, is but one example of that.
’In order to grow the American economy you have to invest in it. And infrastructure, based on any objective analysis, has been identified as an essential piece to growth. I applaud the Administration’s goals of achieving 3% to 4% growth. If we could achieve that over an eight-year period or four year period, that would solve a lot of problems. But the budget that you have doesn’t do that, because it takes away from the very people that you depend on to spend money. Because the fundamentals of economics are that with higher incomes there is more spending, where there is more spending, there is more demand, where there is more demand there is more growth. And I would submit to you, Mr. Director, that we have a growth problem and getting and addressing that issue requires investing in growth.”
Higgins is sponsoring his own infrastructure bill, the Nation Building Here At Home Act, which would invest $1.263 trillion in federal funding for projects over the next 5 years. The allocation represents the difference between the projected level of U.S. infrastructure investment and what the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says is needed to meet U.S. infrastructure needs.