GOP lawmaker warns against ‘one-size-fits-all’ infrastructure plan

Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellMembers mark 'Repeal Day' with National Beer Wholesalers Association Michigan lawmaker calls GM cuts ‘unacceptable’ GOP lawmaker warns against ‘one-size-fits-all’ infrastructure plan MORE (R-Mich.) is calling for a more comprehensive approach to infrastructure, saying lawmakers in Washington don’t always know how to best address the nation’s dire need for repairs on a local level.

Mitchell, who serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, argues that a “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t do enough to address the various needs of urban, suburban and rural districts across the nation when it comes to rebuilding America’s failing highways, bridges, airports and water systems.

“The needs vary, it varies between a rural area — some of my district is rural — and the urban, suburban areas that have different needs,” Mitchell told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball during an interview on “Rising.”

“We need to stop trying to do a one size fits all because it doesn’t work in this country,” he added.

Mitchell represents Michigan’s 10th congressional district, which is adjacent to Flint, where lead seepage into the city’s water sparked a public health crisis.

The Michigan congressman cited the water crisis as a prime example of how Washington’s traditional one-size-fits all approach in infrastructure can fail a community.

He argued that lawmakers need to give communities the freedom to determine how to best use federal money rather than have lawmakers dictate how those funds are distributed.

“We don’t know what the need is in a Flint here — well, I do now — but pick a community from Washington, we put out money and say it’s for infrastructure, you make some priorities, you put your local and state resources with it and we will help do that,” Mitchell told “Rising.”

There’s a push to make infrastructure a priority in the next 116th Congress.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers has launched a new digital ad campaign targeting members of both parties to upgrade the U.S. public works system, urging them to start with infrastructure in 2019.

Mitchell argues that infrastructure isn’t a partisan issue, but he said the question over how to fund it remains controversial among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

That's why Mitchell is pushing for a more balanced approach, including a mix of private and federal money to fund infrastructure in local communities. 

Mitchell believes states and communities to invest more in their infrastructure, but said local officials need to be more transparent in how that money is being used.

"If you look at how things work locally, if you tell taxpayers how much money you need, what specifically you’re going to use it for and you show you’re using it for that, they’ll accept that,” he said. “The idea that you should tell them ‘hey, send us money and we’ll all use it wisely, that doesn’t sell anymore.”

In 2015, Mitchell personally funded a conservative fight against Michigan’s contentious Proposition 1, which would have raised taxes for the state's infrastructure spending.

The measure was defeated, 80 percent to 20 percent.

— Tess Bonn