With 2012 officially underway, growing the economy, creating jobs, and investing in our nation’s infrastructure are just a few of the important issues Congress needs to tackle in the coming year.
Our economy is still struggling to shake off the worst economic decline since the Great Depression. While we have seen more than a year of continued private sector job growth, public sector jobs losses continue. President Obama has put forward the American Jobs Act, a bill that would create 1.9 million jobs across the country. Some portions of the bill have been enacted, but Congress needs to pass the entire legislation – and do so quickly.
Included in the American Jobs Act is one immediate source of job growth: investment in our nation’s failing infrastructure. This week, the Washington Post highlighted the immediate needs of our water and sewage systems in the DC-metro region. The disrepair of the Capital city’s sewer system is indicative of many failing infrastructure systems across the country. The article notes that, on average, 25 percent of drinking water leaks from water system pipes before reaching the faucet.
By investing in our nation’s failing water infrastructure systems we can create jobs, and lots of them. According to the American Alliance for Manufacturing, every billion dollars of infrastructure investment creates 18,000 jobs here in America and provides the foundation for sustainable long term growth. It is not just our water treatment facilities, but our crumbling roads and bridges that also need attention. $2.2 trillion needs to be invested in the most critical physical infrastructure projects over the next five years. We are $116 billion short of the investments needed to mitigate the most serious road congestion. Meeting these needs would generate millions of new jobs in a construction industry hit hard by the economic downturn.
Clean drinking water and safe roads should not be a partisan issue. As ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment, I witnessed first-hand through the FY ‘12 spending bill negotiations that compromise is possible. Passed in December, the bill represented a true consensus of both parties. While it included some provisions I objected to, and the funding levels were far below my preference, I was pleased that most of the harmful anti-environment riders were eliminated from the final bill.
The United States faces many serious challenges in the coming years and it is more important than ever that congressional leaders all come to the table. Last year, Congressional gridlock brought on by tea party fueled hyper-partisanship led to a downgrade of our credit rating and nearly caused the federal government to shut down.
The December bill to fund the federal government showed that compromise is achievable, even in this Congress. It is my hope that in 2012, Congress can put their legislative duties above politics and work together to invest in our nation’s long term success.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.