There’s a saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” If that’s true, the recent passage of the Biden administration’s “infrastructure” package just added an express lane.
The massive $1.2 trillion bill, called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“Jobs Act”), balloons the $29 trillion national debt on what’s largely a green energy boondoggle while sending states like Texas more money when they’re already flush with cash.
The share in the Jobs Act allotted to roads and bridges and other items typically considered infrastructure could be at best 20% while the details indicate it could be as low as 10%. Talk about a waste of taxpayers’ money that could be better used in their pocket.
Collectively, the Jobs Act may have had some good intentions, but it will leave Americans and Texans hurting.
And this doesn’t include the Democrat’s next reckless spending bill called the “Build Back Better Act” that recently passed in the U.S. House on a partisan vote. This $5 trillion big government bill would substantially increase dependence on government, thereby reducing families’ opportunity for self-sufficiency and threatening state sovereignty.
In short, Congress could soon spend about $12 trillion since the costly shutdowns by governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, sending us down the road to serfdom that Americans don’t want and can’t afford.
In Texas, the threat of government dependency may grow as the Jobs Act could allocate $35 billion over five years in federal funds for infrastructure-related projects.
According to a White House state fact sheet for Texas, $26.9 billion will be allocated for federally aided highway apportioned programs, with $537 million for bridges. And $3.3 billion will be used to improve and provide public transportation, despite only 8.6% of the U.S. population lacking access to a personal vehicle and the wasteful projects as fewer and fewer people using public transit because of its location and more remote work.
The electric vehicle producing company Tesla and its principal owner Elon Musk now call Texas home with an ever-expanding portfolio of products soon to come off the assembly line in Austin. The Jobs Act includes $408 million for the expansion of EV charging stations in Texas with possibly up to an additional $2.5 billion. Despite Washington’s effort to “electrify” Texas, state legislators declined to advance an EV infrastructure bill in 2021, indicating voter displeasure with subsidizing unreliable energy sources, while Musk recently admonished federal subsidies.
The Jobs Act would also send at least $100 million for broadband, though state legislators already approved $500 million for it from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, potentially making the added funds duplicative and wasteful.
To limit rising dependence on the federal government and given the state already has the potential for a combined $24 billion in state surplus and the rainy day fund, how can Texas use this money responsibly?
First, lawmakers must reject unneeded funds, given the state has a massive surplus.
Second, they must prioritize transparency like the state did for the $16 billion appropriated from Congress’ ARPA funds. This includes posting funds on the Legislative Budget Board’s website, using funds for only one-time expenditures, and keeping them separate to avoid misuse and a fiscal cliff. And strict oversight of contracts is essential given the potential for abuse.
Second, legislators should swap out any Jobs Act funds with general revenue funds already for infrastructure. The state currently appropriates $26.5 billion in the current budget cycle for infrastructure projects, though some of that could be what was expected from typical formula funding from the federal government as passed in the Jobs Act.
Finally, if it’s possible to make more general revenue funds available, lawmakers must provide much-needed substantial, broad-based property tax relief. Specifically, the state should return surplus taxpayer dollars by reducing school district maintenance and operations property taxes like HB 90 during the third special session of 2021. With tens of billions of dollars available, Texas should seize the opportunity of the Foundation’s bold strategy to eliminate property taxes.
The state’s infrastructure needs a tune up. Any Texan who spends time on Interstate 35 believes they are already on the road to hell.
The real question is whether in tuning up our infrastructure, Texans wish to take the route filled with more strings and less flexibility or the route with more certainty and accountability.
The choice is important.
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Vance Ginn, Ph.D.