Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) yesterday introduced legislation to spend $1 trillion over the next five years to rebuild the nation's transport infrastructure.
The legislation, called the "Rebuild America Act," would create or maintain 13 million jobs, many of them well-paying jobs, said Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and who has been mentioned as a possible Presidential candidate in 2016. Those jobs would have a multiplier effect through the U.S. economy as the projects would require equipment, supplies, and services, while workers would spend their wages at local restaurants and merchants, Sanders said. The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), is also supported by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the AFL-CIO, among others, Sanders said.
"For too many years, we've underfunded our nation's physical infrastructure. We have to change that and that's what the 'Rebuild America Act' is all about," said Sanders in a statement.
A spokesman for Sanders said it hasn't been determined how the legislation would be paid for. It is for that reason the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business trade group with more than 3 million members, cannot support the bill, according to Janet F. Kavinoky, executive director of transportation and infrastructure for the Chamber. Still, Kavinoky lauded Sanders for raising the awareness of the issue on Capitol Hill just four months before the most recent extension of transportation funding law is set to expire.
Although no one doubts the need to rebuild and modernize the nation's infrastructure, there is no consensus on how to pay for it. Most private sector groups, including the Chamber, the American Trucking Associations, and the National Industrial Transportation League, support an increase in the federal motor fuels tax, which hasn't been increased since 1993. However, the Obama Administration and many in Congress oppose such an increase. The Administration said federal infrastructure funding should come from proceeds generated by tax reform. Opponents contend that such an approach fails to provide a stable and sustainable funding source.