By Ben Husch

With only two weeks left until Washington, D.C., hits its annual summer recess, we saw a pair of announcements from the administration last week that struck a common theme: infrastructure.

On July 17, President Obama announced—with a shutdown interstate bridge in the background—that he was launching a new series of initiatives aimed at increasing private sector investment in infrastructure. The Build America Investment Initiative includes a series of programs aimed at expanding the market for public private partnerships by engaging with state and local governments.

Specifics of the initiative include:

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation will form the Build America Transportation Investment Center, which will serve as a one-stop shop for state and local governments, public and private developers and investors seeking to utilize innovative financing strategies for transportation infrastructure projects.
  • The administration will develop an interagency working group that will work with state and local governments, project developers, investors and others to address barriers to private investments and partnerships in areas such as transportation as well as municipal water, broadband, and the electrical grid.
  • The Department of Treasury will host a summit on Infrastructure Investment in September that will bring together state and local officials, leading project developers and institutional investors and federal officials to focus on innovative financing approaches to infrastructure.

As a reminder, nearly six years ago, NCSL formed a working group of state legislators, legislative staff and representatives of private sector entities to assemble reliable information and to identify effective tools when considering PPPs as an infrastructure financing option. In 2010, this working group published "Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation: A Toolkit for Legislators," which provides expert guidance and a compilation of best practices to assist state legislatures as they consider whether and how to pursue PPPs in their states. The report was updated in 2014 to reflect the most recent changes that states had undertaken

The administration’s infrastructure theme was also present last week when it unveiled a series of initiatives aimed at assisting state, local and tribal governments in preparing their infrastructure assets for the effects of climate change. The initiatives were developed based on recommendations from the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience and include:

  • New details on its $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition including a schedule for submitting proposals and those entities eligible to receive funding. The competition is aimed at enhancing resilient infrastructure and deploying innovative approaches to investments.
  • $236.3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support improved rural electric infrastructure in eight states.
  • $13.1 million for a program designed to bring federal agencies together with state, local and private stakeholders to develop 3D mapping data of the United States. The data will be used for flood risk management and to identify hazardous locations for landslides.
  • A $10 million program from the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs to help tribes prepare for climate change by developing and delivering adaptation training.

Ben Husch is committee director for the natural resources and infrastructure committee in NCSL’s Washington, D.C., office.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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