There's room to reconcile the Biden and GOP infrastructure plans

There's room to reconcile the Biden and GOP infrastructure plans
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A Republican proposal for an infrastructure bill was released with the support of Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoLobbying world Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  Like it or not, all roads forward for Democrats go through Joe Manchin MORE (R-W.Va.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerUkraine receives second batch of weapons from US: 'And this is not the end' US maintains pressure on Russia amid concerns of potential Ukraine invasion Sunday shows - Russia standoff over Ukraine dominates MORE (R-Miss.), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyConservatives are outraged that Sarah Bloom Raskin actually believes in capitalism Meet Washington's most ineffective senator: Joe Manchin Black women look to build upon gains in coming elections MORE (R-Pa.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoWatch: GOP leaders discuss Biden's first year in office McConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks Senate Minority Whip Thune, close McConnell ally, to run for reelection MORE (R-Wyo.). Although an examination of the proposal will show that it misses the mark in some important areas, it is, nonetheless, an important first step as an initial GOP bargaining position.

Let’s take a look at what’s in both infrastructure bills.

For traditional transportation — which includes money for roads, bridges, public transit, airports, railways, ports and safety measures — the Republican plan would spend $441 billion. For the same categories, President BidenJoe BidenUS threatens sweeping export controls against Russian industries Headaches intensify for Democrats in Florida US orders families of embassy staff in Ukraine to leave country MORE proposes to spend $447 billion. Both proposals are in addition to the reauthorization of the FAST Act, which is scheduled to occur in September and will spend $500 billion over the next five years on transportation. The Republicans argue, therefore, that their proposal is pretty much the same as the president’s when it comes to transportation. That’s not exactly correct, however. Biden’s plan calls for spending an additional $174 billion to promote electric vehicles (EVs) and the necessary fueling infrastructure, which will make EVs an important part of our transportation alternatives.

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Moreover, total spending under the GOP plan hardly ignores the fact that American infrastructure is far more than just transportation. For example, the Republicans would allocate $65 billion for broadband; the president’s plan sets that figure at $100 billion. The Republican plan allocates $49 billion for water and wastewater systems; Biden’s plan spends $111 billion to achieve that goal. Water and wastewater experts would tell you that the president's figure is barely adequate to meet needs across the country. The GOP plan allocates nothing for upgrading America’s electric grid. The president’s plan wisely allocates $100 billion toward that vital effort. So, for these three categories — which no one can argue are not traditional infrastructure — the president’s plan spends almost $200 billion more.

Biden’s American Jobs Plan goes further, to build out our manufacturing and supply chain capacity as part of our economic infrastructure with $300 billion. I would argue that definition is the correct 21st century infrastructure plan. The GOP’s plan fails to address this at all. The president’s plan allocates $100 billion for workforce development — commonsense spending on infrastructure because it will dramatically improve worker training to meet new technologies necessary for the implementation of broadband, our power infrastructure, and advanced manufacturing and supply chain techniques. Allocating money to do these important tasks would be fruitless without improving our workers’ capabilities. 

Biden also allocates $213 billion to produce, upgrade and retrofit affordable places for Americans to live, as part of the needed upgrade to our housing stock across the country. Surely, homes and housing should be considered part of our nation's infrastructure. The president’s plan also allocates $137 billion for improving, repairing and constructing new public schools, community colleges and child care facilities. Again, the condition of our educational institutions should be considered part of our nation’s infrastructure that needs significant upgrading. 

So, together, where Republicans allocate no money for these four things, the president allocates $750 billion — and an additional $197 billion more for water, broadband and the electric grid. All told, Biden would spend $197 billion on things that Republicans totally ignore or underfund. The president’s plan projects an investment of $947 billion more than the Republican plan; if you add the $174 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure, it spends $1.121 trillion more.

Now, the president’s plan also includes $400 billion for home or community-based care for aging citizens and those with disabilities. This expenditure — which I believe is vitally needed — cannot realistically be considered “infrastructure,” no matter how expansively you define the term. So I believe this will be included in a future bill the president proposes, because it fits with important social care spending.

The point of this analysis is that you could fairly reduce total spending in an infrastructure bill to $1.8 trillion, and probably throw in some belt-tightening in all the other programs to save another $100 billion and get the total spending down to $1.7 trillion. This would allow for a compromise on the increase of the corporate tax rate. It would not have to be 28 percent, as Biden has proposed, but could be 25 percent or 26 percent. Republicans, however, should get realistic about paying for infrastructure revitalization by keeping in mind that most of corporate America asked former President TrumpDonald TrumpHeadaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Stormy Daniels set to testify against former lawyer Avenatti in fraud trial Cheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll MORE to reduce the corporate rate when it was 35 percent, to 28 percent. 

C’mon, all of you — Republicans, Democrats, moderates and progressive alike. Let’s negotiate and come up with legislation to restore Americans’ faith in our government’s ability to act together in the country’s best interests.

Edward G. Rendell was the 45th governor of Pennsylvania. He is a former mayor of Philadelphia and former district attorney in that city. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 presidential election. Follow him on Twitter @GovEdRendell.