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Chairman Yarmuth Opening Statement at Hearing Examining America's Infrastructure

Sep 25, 2019

Washington, D.C.— Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement at today’s hearing on the economic benefits of infrastructure investments and the critical role of the federal government in restoring and strengthening our nation’s infrastructure​. Remarks as prepared are below:

With each passing day, our nation’s infrastructure becomes more inadequate for today’s demands and increasingly dangerous for American families. If we, as a Congress, want to prepare our economy and our nation for a rapidly changing future, we must dramatically improve and modernize our infrastructure.

A strong economy depends on strong infrastructure to function effectively. Unfortunately, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, our overall infrastructure grade is a D+, meaning that it’s in poor condition and at risk. Our roads are crumbling, tens of thousands of bridges are structurally deficient, and roadway congestion continues to sap our time and productivity. Many rural communities are still cut off from broadband access and are unable to benefit from advancements like telehealth services. As severe weather becomes more frequent, cities and communities along our rivers and in coastal areas are put in danger by levees that might not withstand the next major storm. I know that in my district on the Ohio river, we are currently relying on water pumps that are more than 100 years old.

But it’s not just Americans living near our waterways that are at risk, our entire country is paying the price. Current infrastructure gaps are anticipated to cost the United States $3.9 trillion in GDP and 2.5 million jobs by 2025 due to lost productivity. Failing infrastructure will cause U.S. businesses to become less efficient, raising the cost of doing business and forcing those costs onto consumers. From 2016 to 2025, American households are expected to lose, on average, $3,400 in income every year due to infrastructure deficiencies. Despite all these costs, federal infrastructure spending has been on the decline and has failed to come anywhere close to meeting growing needs.

If we want American businesses and workers to succeed, we need to start investing in bold structural changes that will strengthen our economy and prepare us for the future. Instead, we just squandered $1.9 trillion on the Republican tax law that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and did nothing to improve our nation’s economy or prepare us for the future.

If we had invested anywhere close to that amount in our nation’s infrastructure instead, the impact would have be transformative. That’s because, in the short term, every $1 invested in improving our infrastructure systems boosts economic output by $1.50 or more, making it a powerful economic stimulus. In the long term, investing in core infrastructure like transportation, transit, and utilities will boost economic productivity and increase economic growth by simplifying supply chains, lowering shipping costs, and reducing roadway congestion. This growth will not only strengthen our nation’s fiscal outlook, it will also spur increases in employment and wages for years to come. Since more than 75 percent of infrastructure jobs are focused on operation rather than construction, many of these jobs will provide long-term stability for working families across the country.

The economic case for investing in infrastructure is clear, but the public health aspect alone should compel us to act. As shocking as it still is, we have water systems that are poisoning our families. Lead pipes in Flint, Michigan created a water crisis that caught national headlines and highlighted a shameful failure of government, but it is not an isolated case. Just look at Newark, NJ; Portland, Oregon; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Providence, Rhode Island – all have issues with lead contamination in their drinking water and they aren’t the only ones. How is it that in the wealthiest country in the world, it’s easier for a millionaire to get a tax cut than for hundreds of thousands of families to get safe drinking water?

Our nation’s infrastructure bill is overdue, and it’s already costing us our health, our safety, and our economic potential. These are investments that, at one point or another, we will have to make if we care about the well-being of our communities and want to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

By investing now, we can modernize our infrastructure and incorporate new technologies and greater resilience into our plans. We can address sustainability and public health needs, while growing our economy and creating good jobs. This isn’t a should do, it’s a must do.

So I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on infrastructure’s role in a strong economy, and how federal investment can provide opportunities for both short- and long-term economic growth while preparing our nation for the future.