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Grande: Another shovel-ready bill

Despite what the supporters say, the 2021 version of infrastructure spending will be long on waste and short on meeting legitimate infrastructure needs. One should wonder why, after a long history of DC infrastructure legislation, the same roads and bridges are still crumbling.

Bette Grande online photo
Bette Grande

We’re supposed to be happy with the $1.2 trillion-dollar, bipartisan, infrastructure bill the Senate passed last month. The bill is great for North Dakota, we are told. The bill is great for Minnesota, we are told. The bill is paid for, we are told. I’m not so sure.

Politicians always talk about our crumbling infrastructure, about roads and bridges, but those hard infrastructure projects are just a small part of the 2,700-page bill. And even that share of the spending will likely drop further as the House adds its wish list.

Despite what the supporters say, the 2021 version of infrastructure spending will be long on waste and short on meeting legitimate infrastructure needs. One should wonder why, after a long history of DC infrastructure legislation, the same roads and bridges are still crumbling.

In 1998, President Clinton signed a $217 billion-dollar transportation bill to address infrastructure. The bill funded bike paths and an interpretive music center among 1,850 earmarks, also referred to as “pork projects.” After all, what politician can resist "bringing home the bacon."

In 2005, President Bush signed a $286 billion-dollar transportation bill to address crumbling infrastructure that included $223 million-dollars for the infamous “bridge to nowhere.”

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In 2009, President Obama signed the $831 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and we were told it would fund shovel-ready infrastructure projects. The problem was the fine print. Just 13% funding was for actual infrastructure projects, the bulk was for pet projects, anyone remember Solyndra? That company received $535 million dollars and was out of business less than a year later. Good times.

So now we come to the latest and greatest infrastructure bill, $1.2 trillion dollars for roads and bridges, we are told. But when you look at the actual bill you see that roads and bridges and other hard infrastructure projects will receive about 10% of the $1.2 trillion. The majority of the new spending will go to battery charging stations, electric busses and ferries and other green initiatives. Searching for the next Solyndra.

There are winners and losers with this latest bipartisan solution from Washington. The biggest winner will be China. When it comes to solar panels and batteries China is the answer. It controls the majority of the rare earth and critical minerals used in these products and it will manufacture and sell those products to us.

The biggest loser is our future generations who will pay higher taxes and user fees to pay the interest on our ever-growing national debt. Despite what we hear from supporters of the bill, it is not paid for, not even close. Using math that would embarrass Common Core supporters, our representatives in Washington use smoke and mirrors to show us how the bill is paid for. The largest source of funding to “pay” for this bill is unused appropriations for COVID-19 relief, but those funds were borrowed, too. No, this bill will simply add to the debt that will never be paid and our children and grandchildren will pay the interest every year. The debt hole is shovel-ready.

Click here to read more from Forum columnist Bette Grande.

Grande represented the 41st District in the N.D. Legislature from 1996 to 2014. She is CEO of the Roughrider Policy Center, an "innovation over regulation" think tank. She is a wife, mom, grandma, lover of life and Jesus. Opinions are solely her own.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

Opinion by Bette Grande
Grande represented the 41st District in the N.D. Legislature from 1996 to 2014. She is CEO of the Roughrider Policy Center, an "innovation over regulation" think tank. She is a wife, mom, grandma, lover of life and Jesus. Opinions are solely her own.
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