Saturday, November 26, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

State Infrastructure in Shambles, White House Says Ahead of Negotiations

Hoping to secure support for its $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan, the White House released state-by-state summaries that paint a bleak picture of the nation’s roads, bridges and more.

WASHINGTON (CN) — In time for President Joe Biden’s meeting with lawmakers regarding his administration’s sweeping infrastructure proposal, the White House published 50 reports Monday that detail widespread deficiencies plaguing American roads and bridges, its power grid and more.

The price tag for Biden’s American Jobs Plan is $2 trillion, a contentious sum that has unsurprisingly set Democrats and Republicans at odds over how the federal government can best manage the nation’s long-neglected infrastructure needs against its ballooning $28 trillion debt.

At the White House Monday during his first ever face-to-face meeting with legislators to discuss the proposal, Biden indicated he was at least willing to be flexible in order to see a deal done.

“I’m prepared to negotiate as to how — the extent of the — my infrastructure project, as well as how we pay for it” Biden said. “I think everyone acknowledges we need significant increase in infrastructure. ... There’s a lot of folks saying that the fact that we have millions of people not able to drink water because there’s lead — it’s coming through lead pipes — I think that’s infrastructure. I think broadband is infrastructure. It’s not just roads, bridges, highways, et cetera. So that’s what we’re going to talk about, and I’m confident everything is going to work out perfectly.”

According to the state by state summaries, from north to south and east to west, roads and highways are crumbling while potholes are perpetual and public transit vehicles are frequently unreliable. The reports indicate scenarios are not much better for schools across the nation where maintenance shortfalls hover at times in the billions.

In Kentucky, home to former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the state’s infrastructure received a grade of C-minus. More than 1,000 bridges and over 1,300 miles of highway in the Blue Grass State were rated in poor condition, and, like most other states, commute times there are also up.

As a result, so is the cost to the constituent.

The administration’s summary, which relied on public and private data, notes how Kentucky saw an increase in commute times by 6.3%. Road conditions have also heaped an additional $444 in annual car repairs for Kentuckians. The U.S. Census Bureau reported last year Kentucky has one of the highest rates of poverty in the nation.

The situation isn’t much better in places like New York, home to current Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. New York, too, received a C-minus infrastructure rating thanks to the some 1,700 bridges presently in poor condition and over 7,200 miles of highway also worse for wear. The increased cost to drivers in New York annually because of conditions is approximately $625 and commutes times have also gone up to 7.4%.

The administration’s plan would upgrade 20,000 miles of roadway to start and also vests states with funding to shore up modern necessities like broadband internet access in rural or poor communities. Notably, Biden’s plan also proposes refurbishing the nation’s drinking water system. In New York alone the water infrastructure will demand nearly $23 billion over the next 20 years to keep up, the Biden administration reported Monday.

President Joe Biden holds up a silicon wafer as he participates virtually in the CEO Summit on Semiconductor and Supply Chain Resilience in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Monday, April 12, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Affordable housing will also be integral in building out infrastructure, the White House noted in its report. In California, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found homelessness increased by 6.8% increase between 2019 and 2020. With more than 3.1 million renters spending over 30% of their income on housing, Biden has proposed an initial investment of more than $200 billion to address the Golden State's housing crisis.

Present at Monday’s meeting were Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell of Washington and Alex Padilla of California. Republican Senators Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Deb Fischer of Nebraska attended as well. From the House, Democrats Donald Payne of New Jersey, Garret Graves of Louisiana, Don Young of Alaska and David Price of North Carolina attended. All of the lawmakers sit on committees that oversee the coffers for transportation and infrastructure.

GOP lawmakers have hedged on the proposal, objecting to how it is funded. Biden has vowed to increase the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, and to up global minimum taxes.

Senator Wicker called the proposal a “massive social welfare spending program” that hurt small business job creators.

From the floor of the Senate, former leader McConnell blasted the package, saying Democrats were “on a campaign to convince everybody that any government policy whatsoever can be labeled infrastructure” to keep federal dollars flowing to states.

“Liberals just have to believe in it hard enough,” McConnell said Monday.

During a press conference ahead of the meeting, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki worked to set a different tone for negotiations.

Of Republican lawmakers, Psaki said Biden “looks forward to hearing their ideas.”

“His objective is to find a way forward where we can modernize our nation’s infrastructure so we can compete with China,” Psaki said.

State-by-state summaries addressing racial inequity and economic crises in rural America will be released in the coming weeks.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.