The recession has kept us from investing in the infrastructure necessary to launch a sustained recovery. Failure to modernize our water, electrical, mass transit and other systems costs hundreds of billions of dollars each year. We have allowed the recession and its concomitant politics to prevent us from investing in a platform for real economic growth. We need to act. Our goal is to create a virtuous circle where revenues are invested in services and projects that support the creation of good jobs and economic development, leading to a more prosperous future for all.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has said that no part of America’s public infrastructure earns a grade bet¬ter than “C,” with the cost of repairing the system to be $2.2 trillion. Our water systems waste more than 7 billion gallons of water each day, costing $3 billion a year. Airport and air traffic control inadequacies waste of up to 750 million gallons of jet fuel each year. We lose almost 10 percent of the electricity we place in our power grid, and power outages alone cost us between $25 billion and $180 billion per year. Inadequate transit infrastructure costs us another $115 billion in wasted time and fuel. But, at the same time, 2 million fewer jobs in construction are available today than in 2007.
The $2.2 trillion identified by the ASCE is simply what is necessary to maintain the economic base we have inherited. The AFL-CIO estimates the cost of creating a truly 21-st century infrastructure to leave to the next generation at an additional $2 trillion. Yet we have allowed the recession and its concomitant politics to prevent us from making the investments necessary to build a platform for real economic growth. Accomplishing this is essential to maintaining America’s strength and global competitiveness, and it is a way to create needed jobs.
Research shows a correlation between the quality of school facilities and student attendance and achievement. Yet it appears that state and local government has begun reducing investments. The pro¬posed American Jobs Act includes a $30 billion program to renovate 35,000 schools and community colleges. State and local governments should make additional investments through bonds or other means.
Western Michigan University, where the AFT represents instructors and graduate employ¬ees, has one of the first revolving loan funds for energy-efficient modernizations to campus facilities. Programs like this can pay for themselves in just a few years, saving energy and putting people to work. Oregon has implemented a “Cool Schools” initiative to help finance these modernizations in K-12 facilities. Every state should support such efforts across their public infrastructure.
Build it Here
Infrastructure investments should maximize job creation in our communities. For example, Pennsylvania requires that each state construction contract mandate the use of American-made steel. Accord¬ing to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, such provisions are in keeping with World Trade Organization practices and U.S. law.