Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Wednesday spoke on the Senate floor in support of the Rebuild America Jobs Act.
The bill would dedicate $50 billion to modernize highways, transit, rail and aviation and $10 billion to establish a National Infrastructure Bank to help fund a broad range of infrastructure projects, and it would be fully paid for with a 0.7 percent surtax on millionaires.
Senator Feinstein’s full remarks follow:
"I want to thank the Senator from Oregon and the Senator from Massachusetts. I happened to hear both of their comments and they are both very good and they are both right on.
I was thinking while Senator Wyden spoke about the fact that in the past six months those of us on this side have tried on four different occasions to pass legislation related to jobs.
We began May 4 to reauthorize the Small Business Innovation Research Program, which would direct grants to small businesses to develop technologies. It fell on a cloture vote. It did not get 60 votes. It only got 52.
We then tried to reauthorize the Economic Development Administration, which I think most of us know essentially is a cost share for communities in distress. That didn’t get cloture. It fell 49 to 51.
We then tried the President’s big jobs act on October 11. That vote fell. It did not get cloture. It only got 50 votes.
We then tried taking a part of that on October 20, in order to fund 400,000 school jobs and thousands of jobs for police, fire departments, and first responders throughout the nation. That was paid for with a .5 percent surtax on people who could well afford to pay for it and probably would want to pay for it, but that fell on a 50-50 vote, did not get the 60 votes for cloture.
Today we are trying for a fifth time on a part of the President’s bill which has to do with infrastructure. And again, there is a pay-for, it’s paid for by a .7 percent tax on people who can well afford to pay that .7 percent. I think Senator Wyden and I both know the value of keeping this nation number one.
We come from the West, we’re on a burgeoning trade basin, we seek competition with countries that have booming infrastructure, and we see the plugs and the bumps and the stoppages in this country because of an absence of adequate infrastructure. So I’m really delighted that you’re here and that we share this same cause.
And hopefully there is going to be some change in the mindset on the other side of this great hall, and people will realize if we’re going to remain number one, and we’re really not number one, and I’ll go into that in my speech, then we have to pass this segment of the President’s bill. So I thank you very much Senator Wyden for your comments.
As I just said, this legislation offered by the Majority Leader includes the key infrastructure provisions of President’s American Jobs Act.
It invests $50 billion in our roads, bridges, airports and transit systems, and it capitalizes a freestanding infrastructure bank with $10 billion.
This bill makes the investment without increasing the deficit. Funds appropriated are offset by a .7 percent surcharge on people that can afford it only.
I come from a state where unemployment is high, 11.9 percent and employment in our construction sector is down 44 percent.
As you can see from this chart, this is actually California’s construction jobs, and you can see where it was in 2000. You see it rise to 900,000 in 2006 and since that time it has plummeted. And the fact of the matter is that construction, to a great extent, drives the economy in a number of states. And I think California heads that list. So infrastructure and employment go directly together.
Last week this body passed legislation authorizing the sale of power from the Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam is on the border between Nevada and Arizona and it was built in the 1930s. But it reminded me of the invaluable contribution that infrastructure investments have made in generations past.
During the depths of the Great Depression, we stepped forward to help build Hoover Dam.
And between 1931 and 1936, our nation made a massive effort involving thousands of workers, more than 100 of whom lost their lives, to build a power plant unlike anything the world had ever seen.
This is kind of a working picture of Hoover Dam being built. At the time, many in Congress argued that the cost of this engineering marvel was too high and the investment of taxpayer dollars too risky.
They opposed efforts to invest in an unproven energy technology like hydropower. The debate was strikingly similar to the debates we hear today.
Luckily for the people of California, believers in American infrastructure and technology won the Hoover Dam debate.
As the years have passed, the investment has been repaid and the wisdom of Congress’ investment is clear.
Today, Hoover Dam all these years later is still owned by the American people, and it produces power for the southwestern United States at less than one quarter the market price.
It is the quintessential example of why infrastructure spending and investment makes sense.
During the depths of the Depression it gave people jobs and hope. Its benefits were permanent, not fleeting. The investment made in the 1930s is still paying dividends for the economy of the Southwest.
Now, today, this legislation invests $50 billion in America’s transportation infrastructure. That is specifically $27 billion for highways, $9 billion for transit, $4 billion for high-speed rail, $2 billion for Amtrak rail improvements, $3 billion for airports and air traffic control modernization, and $5 billion for discretionary grants and TIFIA loans to multimodal projects.
These funds are in addition to funding levels in the Surface Transportation Bill, which authorizes $52 billion annually and the FAA authorization, which authorizes $16 billion annually.
The proposal also appropriates $10 billion to capitalize an infrastructure bank. With its own appointed board and CEO, this bank would have the power to issue loan guarantees and loans, at the federal funds rate, to large projects in water, transportation and energy.
The Bank’s authority is similar to the functions performed by the EPA’s State Revolving Fund, the DOE’s Loan Guarantee program, and the Department of Transportation’s TIFIA and RRIF Programs.
In the long term, centralizing these functions in a single infrastructure bank will establish more consistent lending rules and policies.
So I think a lot of us have gotten together from time to time to see what could be done to fund a real infrastructure bank. Presently, when we build infrastructure we have no way of financing it. We put up the whole cost up front. Most states and cities don’t fund their infrastructure that way. They float bonds, and they are amortized over time.
So the ability to have an infrastructure bank to loan money to look at various instruments, to move infrastructure production throughout this country I think is vital.
Because the bank will lend, not grant funds, it will leverage $10 billion into approximately $100 billion in actual investment dollars.
The bank would be particularly beneficial to California, I must say that. And we lead the application list for federal financing assistance.
For example, Los Angeles citizens voted to tax themselves by raising the sales tax in order to build a desperately needed subway and transit system. They, they have the money to pay it back; it comes every year, due in sales taxes, but they seek a federal loan to build the system in ten years, not thirty years because they need it sooner rather than later.
The County of Riverside seeks a Federal loan to build a toll road in the Highway 91 goods movement corridor, through which millions of containers move from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to every community in America.
I think most people in this body don’t understand that approximately 50 percent of all of the containers that come into this country, East Coast, West Coast, come in at Los Angeles-Long Beach, 40 to 50 percent, and they go out in multimodal areas in stacked trains into the Midwest.
But they run into all kinds of impediments. There is not separated grades. There is not the ability to move these trains as rapidly as they should be.
So if we’re going to keep up with the delivery of cargo into the heartland of this country, most of which comes from Asia, we need to do something.
California’s communities are prepared to repay these loans, but they need help in beginning.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that for every billion dollars of federal transportation spending, 27,822 jobs are produced. It is the biggest bang for the buck programs I know of. For every billion dollars in spending, nearly 30,000 jobs are generated. So this bill is a job generator.
For every $1 spent on infrastructure projects, it also spurs economic activity, raising the level of gross domestic product by $1.59.
So what is the conclusion? Investing in infrastructure is essential to addressing our nationwide unemployment crisis. Oh, I only wish we could see this.
Congestion is a big problem in this country. I told you about Los Angeles-Long Beach. What I should also tell you is that the average Los Angeles commuter spends 63 hours per year stuck in traffic. That costs $1,464 per person.
In greater Los Angeles, commuters spend 515 million hours stuck in traffic every year. They waste 407 million gallons of fuel, at a total economic cost of $12 billion. That is just L.A.
I see the Senator from Illinois is on the floor. I wonder what the Chicago numbers would be. They’ve got to be large. San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, and Riverside County face all the similar congestion.
In each area, the average commuter spends more than 30 hours a year stuck in traffic. That cost is $6.4 billion. And nationwide, congestion is causing Americans to travel 4.8 billion hours more and to purchase an extra 3.9 billion gallons of fuel for a congestion cost of $115 in one year. That year happens to be 2009.
This is the equivalent of wasting 130 days of flow from the Alaska Pipeline every year. It’s enormous.
So, is this bill necessary? The answer is clearly a resounding yes.
In my state, 66 percent of our major roads are in poor condition; 68 percent of our urban interstates are congested; vehicle travel increased by 27 percent from 1990 to 2007; and 30 percent of our bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
One of the best infrastructure projects in nation is really the repair of Doyle Drive going onto the Golden Gate Bridge. Senator, I wish you see it because this is a stimulus project and it is amazing because you actually see these dollars at work. Huge ramps are being rebuilt going down to ground level, this great icon of America.
The Golden Gate Bridge would never be built today. We just wouldn’t build it. And if we did, it would take a hundred years to do it with all the permits we need. But it’s there. It’s an icon and there is a major infrastructure package working on it.
Our nation’s deteriorating surface transportation infrastructure is going to cost the economy more than 876,000 jobs. It is going to suppress GDP growth by $897 billion by 2020.
Poor road conditions cost United States motorists $67 billion a year in repairs and operating costs—$333 per motorist.
Failing infrastructure will drive the cost of doing business up by $430 billion in the next decade, as the cost to ship goods and raw materials will increase due to bottle necks and roads that beat up vehicles.
There was a time when America built big things.
In the 1800s we built the transcontinental railroad in one of the great private-public partnerships of all time. We built projects like the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover dam in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1950s and 1960s, we built an interstate highway system unlike anything else anywhere on the planet. In the 1970s we built the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in San Francisco.
This multi-decade investment gave America an economic advantage over every country around the world.
Now, listen to this. As recently as 2005, the World Economic Forum rated U.S. infrastructure as number one for economic competitiveness—number one in 2005 for economic competitiveness. But in just five years, we have slipped to number 15. Not five, not 10, but 15 in five years because we haven’t kept up what is a deteriorating infrastructure caused by overuse. The argument is so solid to pass this bill, I can’t understand how anyone could vote against it.
China is spending 9 percent of its GDP on infrastructure. They are our competition. I live on the Pacific Rim. I can tell you every time any one of us goes to China, they will look around the city, whether its Beijing or Shanghai, and you will count 20 to 50 cranes building in that city, improving infrastructure.
I stood in Shanghai when the head of the government told me, in ten years we will build 375 kilometers of underground subway, 25 stations. Guess what? They did it and are doing it. We can’t do that. It’s a problem.
Of course China doesn’t have NEPA, doesn’t have CEQA. It doesn’t have three dozen permits you have to get. It’s easy to write a letter to Mrs. Lee or Mrs. Chu and say: You will move in 30 days because your apartment building is being destroyed. That doesn’t happen here.
But there is no excuse not to do what is in this bill. There is no impediment to do what is in this bill. And maybe, it might not take us back to number one, but it might just take us back to number three or number four. China spends 9 percent. Do you know what we spend?
I will tell you. According to “The Economist” on April 28, we spend 2 percent of GDP on infrastructure. A lot of people are doing columns on whether American remains number one in the world; whether we have lost our clout; whether we have lost our competitiveness; whether we have lost our ability to invest in the future.
This bill is a good testing ground because this measure is all infrastructure with the ability to get it done in the future by a bank that can specialize in the arena. So it’s a good test.
It seems to me if we want this country to be number one that we have to vote “yes.” I believe the will is on this side of the aisle and I send a challenge to the other side of the aisle. There is no reason not to vote for this bill."