Weekly Democratic Address
March 16, 2018
Greetings. I’m Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.
Here in America, we take great pride in what we’ve built: from awe-inspiring landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, to highways – like Route 66 – that connect cities across America.
That pride also extends into less glamorous but equally critical parts of our infrastructure, like jetties and docks, and water and sewer systems.
But while we celebrate and cherish those achievements, we must recognize just how far our infrastructure has fallen into decay.
Today, we have too many gridlocked highways, broken-down bridges, antiquated drinking water systems, overcrowded subways, and crumbling schools.
And what about 21st Century infrastructure?
High-speed rural broadband? Very often, still a dream.
High-speed passenger trains? Still on the drawing board.
High-voltage grid interconnects? Still being planned.
We need to do better – a lot better – for America’s future.
So, it was with great interest that we examined President Trump’s infrastructure plan.
Would it lay out the massive direct investment America needs?
Quite simply, the answer is no – not even close!
The Trump Toll Plan is a disaster from start to finish.
First, it actually decreases rather than increases our national investment in infrastructure! It cuts $240 billion out of the standard infrastructure accounts before adding $200 billion back in.
You don’t have to be a math genius to know that means an overall reduction of $40 billion.
The Highway Trust Fund – cut. Grants for rural water and wastewater – cut. Amtrak – cut.
Second, the Trump Toll Plan flips the federal 80-20 investment formula on its head. Normally, the federal government pays for 80% of a project, resulting in states and communities launching projects that would never otherwise be built.
But in Trump-land, the federal government puts in only 20% of a project.
Believe me, if states could fund 80% of a project, they would already have that project underway.
The additional projects the Trump approach would launch? Well, experts say few to none.
Then comes the really diabolical part of the Trump Toll Plan: Selling off America’s infrastructure to Wall Street middlemen who gleefully plan to charge us tolls forevermore.
Great for Wall Street, to be sure – but terrible for Americans!
Finally, Trump calls for wiping out critical labor and environmental protections. No, thank you, Mr. President.
Senate Democrats have a better way.
With our ‘Jobs and Infrastructure’ plan, we invest an additional $1 trillion on top of what we’re already spending.
We invest directly – just like how Eisenhower invested in our interstate highways – creating 15 million good-paying, middle-class jobs.
The investment includes $140 billion in our roads and bridges; $115 billion in our water and sewer systems; another $115 billion for public transportation; $175 billion targeted directly at rural America – including a massive investment in rural broadband!
Moreover, we pay for it, not by borrowing from our children, but by rolling back the giveaways in the recent tax bill that went into the pockets of corporate executives and the richest Americans.
We make sure that these projects are good for American workers.
We strengthen the ‘Buy America’ provisions so our American infrastructure is built by American workers, with American steel.
We make sure that workers get paid Davis-Bacon prevailing wages so workers have living-wage jobs.
We require meaningful participation from minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses so those good jobs benefit all communities.
My Democratic colleagues and I know that America’s success is measured around the kitchen table, not the Wall Street boardroom table. So, whereas President Trump plans to sell us out to Wall Street developers, Democrats want real, direct investments that make our nation competitive in the 21st century, strengthen our middle class, create good-paying jobs, and grow our economy.
We believe we can not only be proud of America’s incredible past achievements – from the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam to the Eisenhower interstate highways – but that we can create a new generation of incredible infrastructure that will awe our children and grandchildren, and power our economy for decades to come.
That is the vision that we can achieve by passing the Democratic plan.