GBC’s Fry: Consider an infrastructure focus for new federal stimulus

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

Policymakers in Washington are wrestling with which tactic for the federal $700 billion bailout will most benefit the economy — using federal funds to buy troubled financial paper or investing directly into financial institutions hoping to inject the money into the economy through revived lending.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering enacting a new economic stimulus package. In my mind, such a package should focus not on buying paper or equity, but on quickly and directly priming the economy by investing in projects to strengthen our nation’s infrastructure, including transportation, water and wastewater, and energy resources.

That’s what I recently told Congress’ Joint Economic Committee when I was invited to talk about the subject. Infrastructure investment would benefit our nation’s construction industry and its workers who have suffered during the economic decline, and it would fill critical capital project needs that, for too long, have gone unaddressed in America.

Deteriorating roads, bridges transit, and other public works across the country can be attributed to two things — lack of money budgeted to them and our failure to recognize investment in infrastructure as a public policy priority that is essential to economic growth.

Now, slowing revenue is prompting states to defer spending on budgeted infrastructure projects that are ready to be built.

Our state recently deferred $1.1 billion in transportation spending that had been budgeted over the next six years. If federal stimulus funding were available, Maryland has three dozen transportation projects, costing about $150 million, for which construction could begin within months.

In the last two years, more than 600,000 construction jobs were lost in the United States.
A national infrastructure investment plan would begin to put these jobs back into the economy, including many at small, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses.

It’s a logical, straightforward concept that our leaders in Washington should seriously consider.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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