Senate bill revives infrastructure bank idea

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Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) are reviving a push to create a national infrastructure funding bank in a new bill he unveiled on Thursday.

Warner and Blunt's bill would create a "infrastructure financing authority" that would receive $10 billion in initial funding, his office said.

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The infrastructure funding would be used as leverage to lure private sector investments that could reap as much as $300 billion in new transportation projects, according to Warner's office.

The measure has been dubbed the Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act.

Warner said in a statement announcing the filing of the bill that it was just a start on the country's backlog of road and transit projects. 

“The BRIDGE Act is not a ‘silver bullet’ to magically close America’s infrastructure gap, but this bipartisan proposal creates smart new tools to help our states and localities unlock billions of dollars in additional private investments at a time of very favorable interest rates,” Warner said in a statement.

“The BRIDGE Act will not only put Virginians and Americans back to work but also help to expand U.S. commerce and trade, keeping American businesses competitive and creating even more jobs here at home," the senior Virginia senator continued. "The BRIDGE Act demonstrates our willingness to work together in a responsible, bipartisan way to get moving on important investment priorities.”

The infrastructure funding bill has been co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

Blunt said the measure could be used to help close a gap in transportation funding that advocates have said is as high as $20 billion.

"Infrastructure has long been an integral part of our economy," Blunt said in a statement. "Successful transportation systems connect people and communities, and businesses large and small, and the jobs they create rely on a strong infrastructure network to connect with their customers. This bipartisan legislation will provide a new tool to help finance infrastructure projects, create jobs, and ensure America’s global competitiveness in the 21st century.”

An infrastructure bank proposal was floated by now-Secretary of State John Kerry and former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) in 2011, when both were members of the upper chamber.

The Kerry-Hutchinson proposal called for created a $50 billion infrastructure bank, but the legislation ran into opposition from Republicans in the House who said they would prefer to let states establish their own infrastructure banks.

Transportation advocates have said they would prefer to create a national infrastructure bank because many states have not chosen to do so on their own.