(CN) – Touting his mayoral experience with priority-based budgets, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg rolled out a plan Friday to invest over $1 trillion to create 6 million jobs and empower local communities to spearhead infrastructure development.
The 2020 presidential hopeful lamented that “the current administration has been incapable of keeping its promise to pass major infrastructure legislation, and critical projects around the country are stalled because of it.”
Buttigieg’s plan lists crumbling roads and bridges, struggling schools, contaminated water systems and inadequate protections against weather events spurred by climate change as major issues facing the nation.
Local governments will benefit from greater federal zeal, according to Buttigieg, who stressed that “too often, as I saw in South Bend, the federal government does not help as it should—by failing to fund and prioritize infrastructure or by relying on outdated standards.”
The Indiana native and former South Bend mayor listed “opportunity, equity and empowerment” writ large as the three tenets of his infrastructure plan, which begins with creating millions of well-paying jobs with robust labor protections, closing disparities between services in communities of differing socioeconomic standing and enabling those communities to take on infrastructure development at the local level.
Job creation starts with attracting and training a skilled workforce, said the 38-year-old former mayor, whose plan would commit $10 billion to the task in the form of comprehensive pre-apprenticeship programs and $100 million in grants to engage K-12 students with infrastructure and clean energy jobs.
The plan also dedicates $100 million to expand apprenticeship programs in underrepresented communities and creates a $200 billion fund to transition workers in mining and fossil fuel industries into jobs in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure.
Clean water is another top priority for Buttigieg. He cited his time as mayor of a Midwestern industrial city as a crash course in the severe threats posed by outdated, unsafe water systems.
His infrastructure plan calls for investing $20 billion to replace three million lead service lines by 2030 and establishes a $100 billion fund to address lead contamination in water, paint and soil for communities nationwide.
The plan would address contamination from and ultimately find alternatives for per- and polyflouroalkyl substances, or PFAS – also known as “forever chemicals” for their resistance to dissolution – which can be found in non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays, a number of household cleaning products and certain types of firefighting foam.
Another $30 billion would be spent on innovative updates to water and wastewater systems, and Buttigieg’s plan establishes a fund to cut water bills by an average of 50%. The fund provides a one-to-three funding match for states and local water systems to assist low-income families with their water services, which the ex-mayor says are unaffordable for nearly 14 million households.
The candidate’s $150 billion proposal for equitable public transportation in the form of improved access to subway, light rail, bus rapid transit and last mile service would include $12 billion earmarked for expanded access in rural areas.
Roads and bridges would get a much needed shot in the arm under Buttigieg’s plan, including a $50 billion grant program for states to repair bridges and a $165 billion cash injection into the currently insolvent Highway Trust Fund to ensure its solvency through 2029.
Other highlights of Buttigieg’s plan include a broadband boon from an $80 billion internet-for-all initiative, repairing and modernizing flood protections in every region that needs it by 2030, and creating a national taskforce to protect against digital threats from insidious and myriad cyber attacks.
Keeping an eye on upcoming caucuses and primaries, Buttigieg’s policy announcement included a list of stalled infrastructure projects in Iowa and New Hampshire, all of which his plan addresses.
Buttigieg is not the only candidate with infrastructure on the brain in 2020. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made waves with his fierce endorsement of what has been dubbed the Green New Deal, a theoretical infrastructure package seeking 100% renewable energy reliance and ubiquitous broadband access nationwide, among other initiatives, which similar to Buttigieg’s plan has a cumulative price tag in the trillions.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren released her own $10 trillion plan in December, prioritizing 100% clean energy, a $20 billion investment in apprenticeships, funding for public transportation and millions of union jobs.