ASCE’s Government Relations and Infrastructure Initiatives team has been focused the past few months on working with ASCE members to press Congress to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), over $550 billion in new investments for physical infrastructure assets from roads to water systems to our electric grid and more. During our outreach and conversations with Members of Congress and ASCE members, we wanted to set the record straight before the House vote on frequently asked questions and misconceptions about IIJA.
Myth: The bill is only 10% – 30% infrastructure.
Facts: The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will go a long way towards raising the grades and improving conditions identified in ASCE’s 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure by focusing firmly on infrastructure projects. In fact, the bill is 100% infrastructure-related spending and addresses all 17 sectors that ASCE graded in the 2021 Report Card.
Unlike early proposals from President Biden, the IIJA does not include social programs like child and elder care, or any other non-traditional infrastructure. The bill represents $1.2 trillion for the nation’s core, physical infrastructure, including $559 billion of new infrastructure spending. In other words, the $1.2 trillion includes things like the regular reauthorization of the FAST Act and the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (traditional infrastructure), while the $559 billion is plus ups across all infrastructure categories. The new spending includes:
- Roads and Bridges;
- Rail and Transit;
- Power Reliability and Grid Modernization;
- Broadband Deployment;
- Drinking and Wastewater Infrastructure;
- Natural Disaster Prevention and Mitigation;
- Airport Improvements;
- Dam Safety;
- School Modernization;
- Ports and Inland Waterways Investments.
Myth: Only $559 billion of $1.2 trillion is actually infrastructure.
Facts: Only $559 billion is new infrastructure spending. The remaining $650 billion is existing spending from trust funds, like the Highway Trust Fund, with dedicated funding that is automatically raised, such as through the gas tax, and automatically allocated toward pre-existing programs. These trust funds operate on an ongoing basis and would continue with or without the IIJA, making it somewhat misleading to add it into the total cost of the bill.
Myth: The bill is all traditional highway spending and business as usual for infrastructure investment.
Facts: The IIJA makes historic investments across all categories of infrastructure, ranging from roads and bridges, to broadband, water, ports, airports, inland waterways, dams, the grid, rail, and transit. The IIJA is also a critical step in the fight against climate change and creating more resilient infrastructure to guard against the effects increasingly hazardous conditions. The bill moves the United States closer to a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, strengthens infrastructure in the face of increasingly strong and destructive storms, and strengthens and protects the most impacted communities. Through the creation of new programs that prioritize the resilience of our nation’s infrastructure, as well as investments is existing programs like the Resilience Revolving Loan Fund and FEMA’s BRIC program, the IIJA is taking a long-term view of our infrastructure assets.
Myth: This bill will increase inflation.
Facts: This is an investment over multiple years on infrastructure assets that will benefit our economy for decades. Addressing real hard infrastructure needs will not fuel inflation. Additionally, American families and businesses are already feeling the economic impacts from NOT investing in our infrastructure. ASCE’s recent Failure to Act report found that American households are spending an additional $3,300 annually due to aging infrastructure systems, while businesses are set to lose $2.4 trillion in exports over the next 20 years.
Many economists believe that a that a focused infrastructure bill, like the IIJA, could help address rising consumer costs by boosting the supply side of the economy and making it less costly for businesses to operate. A recent economic study by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) found that the IIJA will contribute an additional $488 billion of cumulative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2027 and create about 200,000 jobs annually. Finally, ARTBA’s report found that corporations and the government will increase revenues due to the IIJA, with corporations gaining on average $17 billion annually, while the government would gain on average $60 billion annually due to the increased federal tax base.
By acting now, we can mitigate the harm to our GDP and declining personal income.
Myth: The bill is linked to Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill.
Facts: While initially Democrats discussed passing the infrastructure bill and a larger reconciliation bill in tandem, those bills have been decoupled, which allowed for 19 Republican Senators to join Democrats when the bill passed in the Senate.
At this time, the House remains committed to take up the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Monday, September 27th, fulfilling a promise that Speaker Pelosi made to moderate House Democrats in August. Meanwhile, Democrats $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, which includes many of the social programs that President Biden include in his Build Back Better agenda, is still be negotiated and will not be ready for a vote in the House next week. Therefore, support for the IIJA does not automatically mean support for the budget reconciliation bill as the two packages will be separate and distinct votes.
Myth: There is no urgent need to pass the IIJA.
Facts: Without action, surface transportation programs will expire on September 30th. Currently, the continuing resolution that has been passed by the House and will be under consideration in the Senate, does not include an additional extension of surface transportation programs. A five-year surface transportation reauthorization is included in the IIJA and therefore that bill will need to pass before September 30th to keep ensure that state highway projects are not temporarily halted.
This week ASCE signed onto a letter with over 110 other organizations to the U.S. House of Representatives supporting the IIJA. The investments included in the IIJA would create good-paying jobs through project construction in the short term and provide improved safety and mobility for people and goods for decades to come in every single state.
Take action today and tell your U.S. Representative why they should support the IIJA.