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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

The Future of Infrastructure

February 26, 2018
Weekly Columns
A robust and modern infrastructure keeps our nation’s economy moving – literally. Investing in infrastructure is a critical component of America’s economy, which links businesses, consumers, and everyone in between. Earlier this month, President Trump unveiled his infrastructure plan to address a much needed renovation on our nation’s transportation systems. The plan calls for leveraging $200 billion in federal funds over the next ten years to generate an estimated $1.5 trillion in total infrastructure spending to improve roads, bridges, railways, airports and other projects. I agree with the President, it is time to address decline of our nation’s infrastructure.
 
President Trump's proposed plan calls for investment in five categories. First, $100 billion will be dedicated to an Infrastructure Incentive Program. With this program, states and local governments would receive grants, if they can provide sustained local funds to support the bulk of the project. Second, the plan proposes that $50 billion would be spent specifically for a Rural Infrastructure Program, through block-grants to states to support infrastructure development in areas with a population of fewer than 50,000 people. Third, the plan as proposed would dedicate $20 billion to a Transformative Projects Program, defined as infrastructure projects that have significant risk, but that could generate revenue, provide net public benefits, have a positive impact on the nation or regional area, and for which there is currently limited private-sector funding. Fourth, it would dedicate $20 billion to reinforcing existing public infrastructure lending programs, and fifth, it would provide $10 billion to create a federal revolving capital fund to acquire new real property when it is cheaper than leasing.
 
While President Trump has proposed an optimistic infrastructure plan, I am concerned that his plan is too reliant on state and local money. Oklahoma’s state budget crisis calls into question the reliability and future ability of the state to meet the matching requirements to take full advantage of the Infrastructure Incentives Program. I also have reservations about the future, cost and safety of air travel, which is also a key component and driver of our nation’s economy.   
 
Oklahoma has over 4,700 Air Traffic Control employees at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center (MMAC) and various airports around the state. The transition to a privatized system could potentially damage the dedicated workforce that has sustained safe and transparent skies in Oklahoma and across the nation. Congress has always provided key oversight of the FAA and Air Traffic Control. Because of its balanced approach to regulation and operational standards, the FAA has made our skies the safest and most reliable airspace in the world. For this reason, I will continue to support a transparent, public entity of the FAA to continue to keep our skies safe and efficient.
 
President Trump’s infrastructure plan is a good start. He has been diligent and successful in reining in excessive government overreach on federal agencies and cutting the bureaucratic red tape. The processes he has proposed to help streamline building infrastructure is critical to repairing our broken modes of transportation in a timely manner. From rural communities to urban neighborhoods, revitalized infrastructure will benefit all of America. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop a bipartisan infrastructure plan to work to address our nation's estimated $4 trillion infrastructure needs and that the same time ensure our airways are ready to take on the challenges of a growing economy.