In Arizona’s 1st District, bus drivers taking our kids to school and moms and dads driving to work are forced to travel some of the most dangerous roads in need of repair in our country. In the shadow of wildfire burn scars, towns across our state plead for flood control project funding, and families lose children trying to cross washes that need safe bridges.
All too often, these infrastructure problems I see affecting our communities have been on the back burner since before the Great Recession.
And that’s just rural Arizona. Tribal families across Indian Country far too often lack the infrastructure most of us have come to consider as a given — clean, running water; basic electricity; sanitation systems; and an internet connection.
These issues are decades in the making and have been holding Arizonans back for far too long.
Recently, the Senate voted to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — historic, bipartisan legislation that invests in our roads, bridges, broadband expansion, electric grids, water systems and more. The programs in this bill will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure; keep America competitive with growing powers like China; create new, good-paying jobs; and combat climate change in the process.
The legislation is paid for with pre-existing federal obligations and policy adjustments. These adjustments re-purpose federal money and reduce federal spending in some programs.
In short, this bill won’t raise your taxes.
Here are some of the highlights of this legislation for our country:
- $110 billion to overhaul our crumbling roads and bridges;
- $3.3 billion for wildfire risk reduction, including community wildfire defense grants, mechanical thinning, controlled burns and firefighting resources;
- $65 billion for broadband and eliminating the digital divide too many Arizonans experience;
- $11 billion for highway and pedestrian safety programs, as well as pipeline safety and repair;
- $7.5 billion for clean school buses and ferries;
- $25 billion for airports;
- over $39 billion for public transit, including fully funding the nation’s transit system repair backlog;
- $3.5 billion for Indian Health Service Water and Sewer to ensure clean water and sanitation systems in tribal communities;
- and over $8 billion in funding for western water infrastructure, including water storage, water recycling and reuse, waterSMART and drought contingency plans.
For far too long, Congress has agreed that infrastructure is an American priority but has let political gridlock get in the way of concrete action. As a member of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, an evenly divided group of Republicans and Democrats, I’ve worked to keep the wheels of this process turning in the House. Now, because of bipartisan, bicameral efforts, this bill is a reality.
As a co-chair of the House Blue Dog Coalition, I and my colleagues are calling on House leadership to bring this bipartisan infrastructure legislation to the House floor for a vote as a standalone bill as quickly as possible. Members must travel to Washington to get this deal done and to the president’s desk for a signature.
I’m looking forward to voting to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to make long-overdue investments in our communities, and I am committed to continued communication with Arizona families, stakeholders and local governments on their ongoing infrastructure needs. And, I’m working to ensure these needs are not warped for political points or packaged into large, wasteful spending bills.
As always, my staff and I are here to serve you. I encourage you to call, write or email my office with your thoughts and concerns.
Together, as Americans, let’s move forward.
U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran is a Democrat and lives in the Village of Oak Creek.