Though most policymakers agree that America needs to invest in its aging infrastructure, they disagree about how to pay for it. The NAM has its own recommendations on the best way to reform infrastructure funding and spend infrastructure dollars. NAM Director of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Ben Siegrist recently spoke to us about that plan.
The big idea: The manufacturing industry not only depends on infrastructure to support its supply chains and operations, but in many cases helps to build that infrastructure and employs the people who put it all together. That’s why the NAM has called on policymakers to upgrade our roads, bridges and much more in its “Building to Win” plan, which includes a comprehensive list of infrastructure fixes.
The hitch: The Biden administration has called for increased taxes on corporations to pay for new infrastructure projects and other broad recovery programs, which would make it more difficult for manufacturers to grow. To avoid such a harmful policy, the NAM has been working on alternative funding options, says Siegrist. These include:
- Private investment: Private-sector and industry investment through public infrastructure bonds and municipal infrastructure bonds offers an opportunity for the government and industry to work together. It will allow the industry to access funds with appropriate municipal oversight and creates a system of both shared risk and shared benefits.
- National infrastructure bank: Under this proposal, an institution backed by federal dollars would share some of the risk of infrastructure investment, while providing much-needed capital for the development of projects with public benefit. As private industry draws loans from the bank, it can take on the risk, with revenue going back to the infrastructure bank’s coffers for future development opportunities.
- User fees: The NAM has proposed different ways to update the user fee model, which lets users of surface transportation systems pay their fair share. These updates might include an increase in the fuel tax that is indexed to inflation, or a vehicle-miles-traveled tax that allows people to pay for their specific use of roads and other infrastructure.
The last word: “The only way the economy is going to grow is by having more efficient systems than we have now. ‘Building to Win’ offers a real opportunity for bipartisan cooperation without imposing harmful taxes on businesses,” said Siegrist. “We will continue to convey that message to the Hill. This will be a long process, and we intend to work with the administration and with our members to make sure manufacturers get the support that they need.”