After 34 years of public service, including 24 years as an elected official, Governor Rendell continues to pursue many of the same issues he was passionate about while serving. His commitment to making America a cleaner, more efficient place and to fostering investment in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure is as strong as it has ever been. Rendell has become a champion for progress in the area of alternative energy, and now serves as a consultant or board member for several green and alternative energy firms, including Own Energy, The Efficiency Network and VNG.co. He has also remained heavily involved in the campaign for government efficiency and strategic cost cutting through his work with entities such as Government Sourcing Solutions and Public Financial Management.
Perhaps no other issue has been and continues to be as important to Governor Rendell as America’s dire need to rebuild and reinvest in its infrastructure. As Governor, Rendell worked with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to create an organization called “Building America’s Future.” The organization focuses on the need for a more significant investment in American infrastructure projects to ensure that America maintains its place as a global economic power. Governor Rendell currently serves as Co-Chair of the organization, along with Mike Bloomberg and former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and travels throughout the country speaking about this issue.
The Federal Government Has Given Up on Infrastructure
It’s better that they passed a bill than continually have 3-month or 4-month patches. That’s the good thing I can say about it. The bad thing is I think we are absolutely giving up a significant federal role in infrastructure…when you look back at the history of this country, the federal government has always led the way in significant infrastructure advancements that made us a great economic power…But we’ve got no money for anything that’s going to dramatically increase the level of economic competitiveness and quality of life and public safety from our infrastructure.
Congress is Afraid to Say “Yes”
I testified at Chairman Shuster’s first hearing of his committee. It was myself, Donohue from the Chamber of Commerce, and Terry O’Sullivan, so it was the three of us, and there were maybe 60 members of the Committee present…And after we finished testifying, one member after another stood up and…pledged their fealty to doing something about infrastructure. But when the time came and when we needed significant funding, bingo, nothing. I mean this bill failed…They had the opportunity to put tens of billions of dollars, tens and tens of billions of dollars, into infrastructure spending with no impact on the Federal Treasury and they didn’t even do it.
The FAST Act Doesn’t Solve Any Problems
I think there is a partisan divide. Republicans, despite acknowledging that we need to do something about infrastructure, refuse to do anything to raise revenue. I mean look at the funding sources for this bill. They’re a joke. And the Highway Trust Fund is going to be in worse trouble. Before this bill is done, it’s going to be in worse trouble. So what have they done, instead of essentially kicking the can down the road three months or four months with the usual patches—33 of them—they’ve basically kicked the can down the road five years.
Vote for Politicians Willing to Invest
I think that we should vote for politicians who are willing to put forth an investment agenda, and I mean not just invest in infrastructure—invest in education, invest in research and development—who have the guts to propose somehow to pay for it. And they’ve done it at the state level. I’ll give you a perfect example: Pennsylvania, as you know, Governor Corbett and a Republican legislature, essentially increased the gas tax by 28 cents a gallon over 5 years, giving Pennsylvania the second highest gas tax in the country, second only to California…Not one legislator who voted for this in 2013 lost reelection in 2014. Not one…There’s a message there that people understand the need for investment.
Time for the Infrastructure Commission to Get to Work
I do believe with a new Congress and a new administration, whatever the configuration of that is…I think we have a chance to get a blue-ribbon, six-month commission to propose ways to make significant investments in the American infrastructure. And I think that would lead to doing something like all of the G20 countries have done, and that’s a long-term infrastructure revitalization program…I think with Presidential and Congressional leadership looking at one of the most significant long-range problems facing this country, I think we have a chance to start anew. If we had such a commission I would love to be part of it or chair it, and I would do it as a labor of love.