What the presidential candidates need to know about infrastructure: issues and options



In spite of the current political and fiscal environment, presidential candidates should suggest a reallocation of infrastructure responsibilities within our system of federalism to help close the infrastructure gap, which has been plagued by underinvestment and is in dire need of upgrading and modernization, according to Brookings Senior Fellows William Galston and Robert Puentes. To be competitive in the global marketplace, the U.S. needs to build infrastructure that can reliably support the demands of a 21st century economy – a $150 billion dollar annual investment by some estimates. They note that the U.S. ranks 12th in the world for overall quality of infrastructure, with especially low marks for our roads, ports, railroads, air transport infrastructure and electricity supply.

Galston and Puentes write that states and localities may be more willing to tax themselves for projects if they can expect to reap the benefits directly, rather than shoring up broad national objectives. In addition, candidates should suggest a new partnership between the public and private sectors: mobilizing private dollars for public purposes should be an easier sell than commandeering those dollars through the tax system.

“Infrastructure does not typically garner headlines—until a bridge collapses or a dam bursts. It is, however, the foundation of a healthy economy and society. And it is an issue that leaders at every level of our federal system, including the president, will have no choice but to address, hopefully sooner rather than later. The need is great and growing. Working with governors, mayors, and the private sector, the next president must break the logjam and create a new model of infrastructure finance for the 21st century,” they conclude.