Investing for Success: Examining a Federal Capital Budget and a National Infrastructure Bank

Emilia Istrate and
Emilia Istrate Senior Research Associate and Associate Fellow
Robert Puentes

December 10, 2009

Today’s fiscally constrained environment demands a new approach to infrastructure policy, allowing
us to upgrade our existing infrastructure, expand choices in moving people and goods (and
ideas), ease the burden on household budgets, and help us attain energy independence. Spending
must produce real gains in productivity, inclusion, and environmental sustainability—the foundation
of short- and long-term prosperity. In this time of limited resources, improving the federal
investment process should be prioritized over finding ways to merely increase the amount infrastructure

This brief examines the current federal investment process and the extent to
which a federal capital budget or a national infrastructure bank (NIB) would improve it. It finds
that creating a federal capital budget would provide little improvement for the federal decisionmaking
process on infrastructure financing. However, while the more modest NIB is no silver
bullet, if appropriately designed and with sufficient political autonomy, it could improve both the
efficiency and effectiveness of future federal infrastructure projects of national significance.