This piece was originally published in the March 2017 issue of electroindustry.
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
In order for us to create an economy built to last, we need to make strong federal investments in a 21st-century American infrastructure network that puts people to work and allows businesses to move their goods to market.
President Trump has pledged to put forward a $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan. In January, I joined with Senate Democrats to outline our priorities for that historic investment. Our Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure would provide billions for strengthening our electric system, modernizing Veterans Administration hospitals, rebuilding public schools, expanding transit infrastructure, repairing critical rail systems, funding essential road and bridge improvement projects, rehabilitating water and sewer structures, and much more.
America’s electric grid consists of an antiquated patchwork of interconnected power generation, transmission, and distribution facilities, some of which date back to the early 1900s. Not surprisingly, the grid suffers from hundreds of avoidable power failures each year, costing our economy between $25 billion and $70 billion, annually. Our grid simply is not up to 21st-century challenges such as extreme weather events and cyberattacks. Incredibly, the World Economic Forum ranks our electric grid 24th in the world in terms of reliability, just behind Barbados.
Notably, we would also invest $100 billion in much-needed power transmission and distribution upgrades, upgrade our failing power grid through new funding for next-generation energy infrastructure, and add certainty in the tax code with permanent incentives for electricity generation, fuel transportation, and energy-efficiency improvements. In the end, this would bring down consumer costs for energy.
In addition, our blueprint would provide billions for expanding broadband in rural communities. With a $20 billion investment, we can expand broadband access to millions of Americans and create 260,000 new jobs. This will fund the buildout of high-speed broadband in unserved and underserved areas.
In his inaugural address, President Trump made clear that “buy American and hire American” would be a key element of his administration. For years, I have supported and fought for strong “Buy America” requirements because I believe that tax dollars for public projects should support jobs and businesses in America. Buy America reforms must be a guiding principle in any infrastructure plan. Our American manufacturers and workers deserve a solid commitment from us because they cannot afford to spend taxpayer dollars on foreign products. We must rebuild our country’s infrastructure with American labor and American products.
The bottom line is this: we need a major investment in our nation’s infrastructure—and we need it now.
It’s time that we work across party lines to make strong federal investments to put people to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure. Real infrastructure investment is critical to sustaining our positive economic growth, creating millions of jobs, and building a modern economy. Investments in America’s future must be made today.
Senator Baldwin serves on the Senate Budget Committee; Senate Appropriations Committee; Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP); and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.