A social media friend of mine in Michigan recently posted a meme that basically said, “Now is the time to fix the roads!” My guess is that he is referring to the traffic headaches that take place during the road building/repair season with the inference being there’s little to no traffic during this time of shelter-in-place orders and social distancing being the opportune time to block off lanes and close roads for construction.
Of course, we think about it a bit more deeply. We are asking if now is a good time to focus on the bigger picture of infrastructure and specifically infrastructure funding. Lawmakers seem to be thinking the same thing. Can there be some kind of a deal made to include infrastructure funding in one of the coronavirus relief packages?
The President has been pushing for a $2 trillion infrastructure spending package. He recently tweeted, “With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long-awaited Infrastructure Bill. It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!”
But as historically has been the case, getting that package through Congress will be an exercise in partisan politics. Alexander Bolton of The Hill reported recently, “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that he is in discussions with House Democrats on putting together an ambitious package, only days after Trump signed into law a $2 trillion economic relief bill that will substantially increase the federal debt.
“We’ve been discussing this for the last year with the Democrats and the Republicans. I’ve had ongoing conversations with Richard Neal on this. And we’ll continue to have those conversations,” he said, referring to the chairman of House Ways and Means Committee and Massachusetts Democrat.
Senate Democrats have introduced their own ambitious infrastructure plan and are expected to support whatever Pelosi puts together.
McConnell and Senate Republicans are waving caution flags. They say the next round of coronavirus relief has to be tailored to addressing economic problems caused by the pandemic.”
So, the expectation is the inclusion of any infrastructure spending in another coronavirus relief stimulus will not happen as quickly as the previous stimulus packages. Let’s hope it happens, nonetheless, because now is the time to fix the roads!