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Taking Action, Building Confidence: Jobs Council Report to the President

Posted by Content Coordinator on Monday, October 31st, 2011


A New Era for Infrastructure

The Challenge: The U.S. Needs to Make Significant Investments in Infrastructure to Stay Competitive with the Rest of the World

  • U.S. infrastructure has plummeted from eighth to 16th place in the World Economic Forum’s 2005 economic competitiveness ranking.
  • China now boasts six of the world’s top 10 ports. The U.S. can’t even claim one of the remaining four. Worse, the Shanghai port moves more container traffic a year than the top seven U.S. ports combined.
  • The U.S. has the world’s worst air traffic congestion—a quarter of flights in the U.S. arrive more than 15 minutes late, and our national average for all delayed flights (about 56 minutes) is twice as long as Europe’s average.
  • Several recent bi-partisan reports indicate that the annual gap in transportation infrastructure alone could be $200 billion. Current government revenues dedicated to infrastructure cover less than ½ of this amount.
  • The nation’s complex federal, state and local permitting system can lead to unnecessary delays. Moreover, there is little incentive or structure in the political process to assure that the nation’s most pressing infrastructure priorities will be chosen for funding on a rational basis, and then pursued cost-effectively.

Jobs Council Recommendation: Invest Aggressively and Efficiently in Cutting-Edge Infrastructure

The Jobs Council believes it is time to stop studying this problem and time instead to get to work. The stakes for jobs are substantial. Studies indicate that each additional $1 billion of government infrastructure spending creates between 4,000 and 18,000 direct jobs. The efficiency and competitiveness gains from investing in infrastructure are equally vital. The Jobs Council recommends the following actions to encourage more and better investment in the nation’s transportation and broadband infrastructure.

Reauthorize the Main Surface Transportation Programs; Focus on Performance and Accountability
Specifically, there should be a formal, programmatic requirement in these programs for cost effectiveness using objective cost-benefit criteria for project selection and funding. A significant increase in transportation infrastructure investment must be coupled with broad-based reforms to select projects wisely and to provide incentives for efficient program and project delivery.

Leverage and Expand Existing Public-Private Financing Mechanisms to Increase Private Capital for Infrastructure Investment
The Jobs Council recommends pursuing a number of methods for leveraging public-private financing to fund U.S. infrastructure investment. For instance, $14 billion of DOT’s Private Activity Bonds (PAB) currently approved for surface transportation projects are yet to be allocated. Project sponsors, investors, and government officials should work together to ensure that demand is sufficient and that this tool is leveraged to catalyze private investment.

Create a New National Infrastructure Financing Organization that Complements Existing Programs and Attracts Private Capital to Infrastructure Projects
With the exception of broadband networks and energy infrastructure, there is currently little direct private investment in infrastructure projects in the U.S. compared to many other countries, and the U.S. has done little to facilitate public-private partnerships. The Jobs Council recommends that Congress explore the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank to increase the amount of private funding for infrastructure projects.

Protect and Preserve the User-Based Funding of the Highway Trust Fund
Exploring the use of more user-generated funding that would ease statutory prohibitions to allow states to toll or price highways eligible for federal aid would both help to rectify the Highway Trust Fund deficits and open the door to additional public-private infrastructure projects.

Speed Implementation of the Next Generation Air Traffic Control System
Faster implementation of a NextGen air traffic control system would not only dramatically smooth the daily flow of travelers and goods, it would also reduce energy consumption and add greater capacity to U.S. airspace.

Promote Construction of Broadband Networks and New Technologies to Reach all Americans
We could modernize the universal service fund to allow broadband services. In addition, underutilized and unlicensed spectrum should be made available to promote the deployment of wireless and satellite-based technologies.

Streamline Permitting and Approval Processes for Jobs Rich Infrastructure Projects
The permitting systems for infrastructure projects must be streamlined to eliminate duplication and unnecessary delays. The President’s recent Memorandum directing departments and agencies to identify high-impact, job-creating infrastructure projects that can be expedited through outstanding review and permitting processes is an important first step.

U.S. Employment Change from December 2007Necessary Infrastructure Investment

Download full version (PDF): Taking Action, Building Confidence

About The Jobs Council
President Obama convened the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, asking leaders from business, labor and academia to develop ideas to accelerate job growth and improve the country’s long-term position…
The Council has pursued a three-phase approach to its work: catalyzing job growth by capturing “low hanging fruit” over the short-term; focusing on broader ways to accelerate job creation while also lifting U.S. competitiveness over the next two to five years; and developing proposals on the broader factors influencing American competitiveness over the next five to 10 years.

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