President Obama’s Pitch for Infrastructure Investment Highlights the Need for More Creative Funding Alternatives

President Barack Obama’s pitch for tax breaks and other measures to boost private investment in infrastructure projects announced Friday backs up his recent State of the Union pledge to make bringing roads, bridges, water systems up to standard a key part his economic agenda.

His announcement came a week after the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) graded the nation’s water and wastewater systems a ‘D’ in its latest ‘Failure to Act’ report card.

A ‘D’ in the report means there is a “strong risk of failure.” In many places, this is already happening. The report says there are currently 20,000 water mains breaks a month, often because aging pipes are far beyond the end of their useful life.

It is a problem that has been decades in the making. Investment in water infrastructure has been deferred by municipalities who face competing pressures to fund schools, police departments and provide other services. Declining federal support is at a trickle.

Along with certain tax breaks, measures reports say President Obama proposed for new investment in all types infrastructure include:

  • $4 billion in new spending on two infrastructure programs that award loans and grants.
  • A renewed call for a $10 billion national “infrastructure bank.”

The ASCE report said bringing our water pipes up to standard, alone, will cost $1 trillion over the next 25 years. The ‘gap’ between what is needed and what the President has proposed simply underlines that no one organization or initiative can fix the problem.

We need many more creative public and privately funded approaches to attract the investment that is needed in our water systems.

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