WASHINGTON (SBG) – In the next few days we’ll find out exactly what President Joe Biden wants to do for the country’s aging infrastructure, like roads, bridges and waterways, and how much it’ll cost.
One of the people who’ll play a large role in trying to get the plan approved by Congress is one of Biden’s former opponents on the campaign trail.
On Monday, Chief Political Correspondent Scott Thuman went one-on-one with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Below is part of their exchange.
Thuman: "Every few years, we hear this: Capitol Hill has a consensus everybody wants infrastructure ... But it doesn’t get done. Why should we believe this is different than any other time?"
Buttigieg: “I recognize this is not the first time that expectations have been raised around infrastructure. But we truly cannot afford to wait any longer ... And we have the right combination of conditions right now to get it done. We have a very supportive president, we've got a lot of bipartisan interest, we’ve got a demonstrated need, about a trillion dollar backlog just in things like maintaining our roads and bridges."
Paying for it after just shelling out roughly $2 trillion in COVID-19 relief is a more difficult prospect.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called this "a trojan horse for massive tax hikes and other job-killing left-wing policies."
Thuman: “What’s the response to that?”
Buttigieg: “This is just one of those moments. Eisenhower had a moment like this in the 50’s when they started the Interstate Highway System. Lincoln had a moment like this with the Transcontinental Railroad. Every once in a while, every 50 to 100 years, there comes a season that is the time to do big things to make America stronger.”
Buttigieg, hesitant to get ahead of the president, wouldn’t tell go into detail of how the government plans to pay for it, but his team says it won’t be through a controversial mileage tax or any others that hurt average Americans.
Buttigieg: “Let me make a quick note about how we’re not going to be paying for it. The president is insisting that no plan in this administration increase taxes on anyone making less than $400,000.”
While many Republicans argue it goes too far, covering green-energy projects too, some progressives say it’s not transformative enough.
Thuman: “How narrow is the line you have to walk?”
Buttigieg: “Where we emerge in the end probably won’t be perfect to anybody, but it will need to be something that works for everybody, and I really feel that space is there. At least, I hope that the politics of partisanship don’t interfere.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation on Monday announced a $30 billion boost from the recently passed American Rescue Plan for public transportation systems to keep running. speeding up vaccine distribution, saving jobs and keeping riders safe.
Buttigieg: “Even as we’re looking ahead toward this infrastructure vision that’s going to prepare really for rest of our life times, prepare America to succeed, we also have to make sure that through things like today’s announcement, we are deploying the resources just to get America through this difficult season. We are not out of the woods.”