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Rep. Matt Cartwright: Rebuilding America's infrastructure necessary to rebuild nation

Dec 27, 2016
In The News

As we enter 2017, I look forward to promoting policies that will benefit working Americans. Over the past year, constituents sent out a clear message: we need to secure our future. In today's economy, a reliable future depends on secure jobs, jobs that pay decent wages and allow people to provide for their families. I believe that one of the best ways to create jobs in Pennsylvania and across the country is through investments in infrastructure. It's a top priority of mine for the coming year.

America's Greatest Generation left us an amazing infrastructure system. But for far too long, we have failed to take proper care of it. We see the neglect in the deteriorating condition of our roads and bridges and in the aging pipes of our wastewater and storm water systems, among other places. Now, after years of underinvestment, many of our infrastructure systems don't even meet minimum standards of safety and reliability, let alone enhance our national competitiveness or drive innovation.

We also have to address the problem of deteriorating public school buildings. Everybody knows that education is key to developing a competitive workforce ready for the jobs of the future, but we have let many of our school facilities fall into disrepair. This year, for the second time, the House of Representatives unanimously passed my bill to help schools implement energy efficiency upgrades, so that they can replace badly outdated HVAC systems or other key components of their facilities. Unfortunately, for the second time, the Senate did not vote on the bill, but I will continue to push for this measure to become law in the next Congress.

To give businesses the same opportunity for energy efficient upgrades as schools, I will also continue to push the Job Creation through Energy Efficient Manufacturing Act. If passed next Congress, it would help businesses pursue energy efficiency projects that would reduce expenses and free up dollars for hiring and expansion.

None of this will be enough if we don't also support vocational training and education. The Lehigh Valley is fortunate to have an outstanding Workforce Investment Board and a group of community leaders dedicated to connecting students to vocational training as well as four-year degrees. I applaud these efforts and will continue to look for ways to improve the job training resources available to workers.

I also believe that part of properly caring for America's asset portfolio is building resilience in our communities in the face of extreme weather events, which can cause severe disruptions and damage to lives, property and economic activity.

Instead of placing all our hopes on emergency relief when the next storm, flood or heat wave hits, we should proactively improve our systems to minimize the damage and help us rebound faster from such catastrophes. This means maintaining or rebuilding levees and flood-protection systems, as well as improving our energy systems so that vital community institutions such as hospitals can keep their lights on and equipment running without interruption during major storms.

As I renew my push for infrastructure investment, I am encouraged that the president-elect has made this a part of his own agenda, repeatedly mentioning the rebuilding of roads, schools, hospitals and airports. This emphasis gives me hope that we will be able to work constructively on this bipartisan priority.

I do note, with some regret, that early glimpses of the president-elect's infrastructure plan suggest an overemphasis on tax breaks for private investment as the central vehicle for spurring infrastructure development. My own belief is that a giveaway to the wealthiest in our country will not improve the lives of the working people. While the private sector will continue to play an essential role in addressing our infrastructure challenges, we must also embrace the importance of public planning, public coordination and public financing, which are all vital to ensure transparency in the use of public dollars and fairness in the treatment of the people who will actually do the work.

When it comes to our infrastructure, there is no way around the need to spend public money and invest in our future. Doing so now would put people back to work and spur activity throughout the economy with an increased demand for materials, services and expertise from multiple professions.

A successful infrastructure program is not just about fixing things that are broken. It is about laying the foundation for prosperity, so that our businesses can innovate, compete and create jobs on American soil for generations to come.

Americans have made it clear that they are calling for a renewed commitment to rebuilding our nation. I hope everyone will work together, to answer that call.