By Kristen Hildreth
NCSL, represented by Utah Senator and immediate past NCSL President Curt Bramble, joined state and local leaders from the National Association of Counties, United States Conference of Mayors, and National League of Cities Wednesday for a robust conversation about the role of state and local governments in building, maintaining and improving America’s infrastructure and how Congress can help support the nation’s infrastructure needs.
The briefing was part of Infrastructure Week, which runs through today. It's a national week of education and advocacy that brings people together to highlight the state of the country’s infrastructure, and encourage policymakers to invest in the projects, technologies, and policies necessary to make the nation competitive, prosperous and safe.
Bramble emphasized three needs as Congress develops solutions to the nation’s infrastructure woes: flexibility, financing and fiscal viability.
Stressing the need for flexibility, he noted that the solution must not be ‘one-size fits all,’ and instead must adapt to meet the needs of both rural and urban communities. On financing, he discussed the importance of municipal bonds to state and local government infrastructure projects. And finally he highlighted how important a long-term solution to federal funding is, noting that the gas tax continues to lose out to ever more efficient vehicles.
Other state and local speakers included the mayor of Oklahoma City, Mick Cornett, and Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough and Councilmember Matt Zone of Cleveland. They made clear that local officials need to be at the table to discuss infrastructure needs, and announced their desire to be partners with both the administration and Congress as talks surrounding an infrastructure package ramp up.
They echoed Bramble's call for maintaining tax-free municipal bonds as Congress begins discussions surrounding tax-reform, citing their necessity in local infrastructure projects. Leaders also spoke to the murmurs in Washington surrounding the possibility of a package funded by Public Private Partnerships (P3s), and noted that while it may work in certain regions it will not be feasible for the nation.
Additionally, Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) ranking member of the Joint Economic Committee, joined to provide remarks on the state of a prospective infrastructure package in the federal arena, what that package might contain, and how that package might be financed.
Following the briefing, Bramble and other local leaders were joined by representatives from the National Governors Association and the International City/County Manager Association to discuss different regulatory issues that hinder the construction and maintenance of different infrastructure assets.
Bramble highlighted Utah's work on improving the I-15 corridor and how, by forgoing federal funds and thus not having to abide by overly prescriptive federal regulations, they were able to significantly expand the size and scope of their improvement project for a lower overall cost. Other speakers highlighted regulatory burdens dealing with county and municipal water systems.
The round table was led by Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Government Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs, and its ranking member, Val Demings (D-Fla.).
Also joining the discussion was Representative Mark Desaulnier (D-Calif.), a former state legislator and NCSL Executive Committee member, who spoke passionately about partnering with state and local governments to remove such barriers and improve America's infrastructure systems across the board.
For questions on the briefing, or the roundtable, please contact Kristen Hildreth or Ben Husch.
Kristen Hildreth is a policy associate with NCSL's National Resources and Infrastructure Committee.