Democrats Reissue Call for Infrastructure Bank in Philadelphia

Presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have lamented crumbling U.S. bridges and roads.

Democrats in Philadelphia for their national convention Wednesday reiterated their party's call for a federal infrastucture bank as presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump lament crumbling U.S. bridges and roads.

At events hosted by Bloomberg, Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts said the bank had become politicized but would help bring “business-based decision making” to transportation, while former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said it would likely be self-funding.

President Barack Obama and Clinton support the proposal, while congressional Republicans have previously called it “dead on arrival.” Trump, a real-estate developer who has tried to appeal to working-class voters, has offered few proposals for infrastructure, but he lamented in his July 21 acceptance of his party’s nomination that “our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in Third World condition.”

For nearly a decade, Democrats have been pushing the idea that they could avoid interruptions to federal road and transportation funding by setting up a national infrastructure bank to help fund large-scale projects that rebuild bridges, airports, railways, and public transit systems. Most proposals call for funding initially to come from the federal government but to eventually attract private sector investment. 

“It’s really become a very political question, not so much a facts question,” Moulton said. “What I’m asking for politically is simply the level playing field."

Rendell said that, because the bank would likely be self-funding, it would be an effective way to get around resistance to tax increases that would probably be needed to fund fixes to U.S. infrastructure.

“One of the good things about infrastructure projects is very few of them, from a financial point of view, have ever failed,” he said.

The alternative is unacceptable temporary solutions, Rendell said, although he said he believed lawmakers could raise a gas tax without overly angering constituents and that communities should consider issuing bonds because of the current rate environment.

“We need a long-term plan,” he said. “We can’t do infrastructure piecemeal.”

David Plouffe, who managed Obama’s 2008 campaign and now serves as an adviser to the rideshare company Uber, said private businesses could make the most of an infrastructure bank by figuring out how they could interconnect or complement existing public services like buses and subways.

“Hopefully we’ll see more communities take a holistic view,” said Plouffe, who appeared on a panel with Moulton and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. They should also look to “make decisions based on where we may be 10 or 15 years."

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