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Putting ‘an offer on the table,’ Republican senators unveil $568B infrastructure plan

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Dive Brief:

  • In response to President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, Republican senators unveiled a $568 billion “infrastructure framework” package yesterday.
  • The legislators did not provide specifics on how to pay for the cost of their plan, which includes improvements to roads, transit systems, airports and broadband internet over five years. They released a two-page document that calls for collecting user fees for electric vehicles and repurposing existing federal spending, while opposing the corporate tax increase that is part of Biden’s plan.
  • The GOP senators indicated they want to work with their Democratic colleagues toward a bipartisan plan. “We see this as an offer that is on the table and deserves a response,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), in an announcement yesterday. “I think we will get a response. We look forward to that and we’re ready to get to work.”

Dive Insight:

The Republican Roadmap breaks down infrastructure spending into the following categories:

  • $299 billion for roads and bridges, an increase from the $115 billion in Biden’s plan.
  • $61 billion for public transit systems.
  • $44 billion for airports.
  • $20 billion for rail.
  • $35 billion for drinking water and wastewater systems.
  • $65 billion for broadband.
  • $17 billion for ports and inland waterways.
  • $14 billion for water storage.
  • $13 billion for safety, including highway, pipeline and hazardous materials safety.

The offer is a fraction of Biden’s proposal, which will likely limit its support among Democrats, according to The Wall Street JournalNevertheless, construction industry groups said the proposal is a first step to addressing the needs of the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

“The framework put forth by Republican senators shares significant similarities with President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and shows that there is a very real pathway for enacting transformational infrastructure legislation,” said Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at the Associated General Contractors of America. “We are very encouraged by this process to produce a bipartisan proposal.”

Michael Bellaman, president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors, said he is heartened that the plan does not call for any new taxes on businesses.

“The Republican infrastructure framework would serve the American public well, as it focuses on safety, national security and resiliency,” he said in a statement sent to Construction Dive.

He also noted that it calls for expediting the permitting process, reducing regulatory burdens and embracing technology and innovation, “all of which can cut costs and improve productivity to deliver more infrastructure projects for each dollar spent,” he said.

White House reaction

Senate Republicans have criticized Biden’s plan as being too large and stretching the traditional definition of infrastructure. Instead, the GOP proposal focuses on improving the country’s physical infrastructure, Capito said.

“We’ve talked a lot about this… What do people think of in our states when they think of infrastructure? Roads and bridges; public transit systems; rail — which could be cargo, passenger rail; water and wastewater…ports and inland waterways; airports; broadband…and lastly water storage and safety,” she said.

President Biden indicated earlier this week that he is open to compromise on the issue and at a press briefing yesterday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Republican proposal was a good first step toward finding common ground.

“We certainly welcome any good faith effort, we certainly see this as that, but there are a lot of details to discuss,” Psaki said.

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