INDIANAPOLIS — In a week after the Dow crossed 36,000 for the first time and 531,000 new jobs were created in October, House Democrats aided by 13 Republicans — though none from the Indiana delegation — voted late Friday night to pass President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill by a 228-206 vote. Six progressive Democrats voted against the measure after Speaker Nancy Pelosi received commitments on the Build Back Better Act to split the votes from this record infrastructure bill.
The bill will bring more than $8 billion to Indiana to revitalize roads and bridges; $751 million to ensure safe, clean drinking water; $680 million to improve public transportation systems; $350 million to expand broadband internet access, especially in rural areas; and $20 million for Indiana to respond to extreme weather events.
But like just about everything else in this era of American politics, the infrastructure bill was characterized as “solving problems” in the words of Democrat U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan, or denounced as a “socialist scheme” according to Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, despite the fact that U.S. Sen. Todd Young helped negotiate the version that passed the Senate. Young voted no because it would have been followed by President Biden’s Build Back Better bill.
“We have discussed the need to make desperately needed investments in our infrastructure and broadband technology for too long,” Mrvan told the The Times of Northwest Indiana following the House vote. “Today, we delivered.”
“As Hoosier families face the devastating ramifications of President Biden’s inflation and supply chain crises, President Biden and the Democrats’ socialist tax and spend scheme is astonishingly out of touch with the American people," Walorski said.
U.S. Reps. Larry Bucshon, R-Newburgh, and Jim Baird, R-Greencastle called the bill a “Trojan Horse” designed to pave the way for future spending.
Walorski, Bucshon and Baird have rediscovered their fiscal conservatism, which was missing during the $7 trillion in additional debt accrued under President Trump. Hoosier Republicans didn’t balk at receiving a portion of the estimated $28 billion the Trump administration paid to American farmers from 2017 and 2020 as part of the Market Facilitation Program for losses driven by tariffs that China placed on agricultural imports from the U.S. in retaliation for Trump’s trade war.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act comes on the heels of Biden’s American Rescue Plan last spring that will bring some $4 billion in federal investments to Indiana, including $1.28 billion for municipalities. ARP funds will also fund Gov. Eric Holcomb’s $500 million READI grants. So Hoosier governments are going to be seeing an unprecedented $13 billion over the next four or five years.
Recently released state-level data demonstrate that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will deliver an array of upgrades for Indiana, coming some 16 years after the $3.8 billion Indiana Toll Road lease fueled Gov. Mitch Daniels’ 10-year, fully funded road program that includes remaking the U.S. 31 freeway and extending I-69 from Bloomington to Indianapolis.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed and signed by President Obama in February 2009 during the Great Recession and included $1.4 billion for Medicaid expansion (HIP 2.0), $1.3 billion for education, $650 million for roads and bridges, $400 million for nutrition and another $600 million for weatherization, water quality, housing, public transit and child care.
The historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is designed to:
1. Repair and rebuild Indiana roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. In Indiana there are 1,111 bridges and over 5,478 miles of highway in poor condition with this legislation providing $6.6 billion.
2. Improve healthy, sustainable transportation options for millions of Americans with the state expecting to receive nearly $680 million over five.
3. Build a network of electric vehicle chargers to facilitate long-distance travel and provide convenient charging options with Indiana receiving $100 million over five years.
4. Help connect every American to reliable high-speed internet. According to the White House, 16% of Indiana households do not have an internet subscription, and 3.2% of Hoosiers live in areas where, under the FCC’s benchmark, there is no broadband infrastructure. Indiana will receive a minimum allocation of $100 million that will provide access to at least 217,000 Hoosiers who currently lack it.
5. Prepare more of our infrastructure for the impacts of climate change, cyber attacks, and extreme weather events. From 2010 to 2020, Indiana experienced 34 extreme weather events, costing the state up to $10 billion in damage. Indiana will expect to receive $20 million over five years to protect against wildfires and $20 million to protect against cyber attacks.
6. Deliver clean drinking water to every American and eliminate the nation’s lead service lines and pipes. Indiana will expect to receive $751 million over five years to improve water infrastructure.
7. Airports in Indiana would receive approximately $170 million for infrastructure development for airports over five years.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce said the spending is well worth it. “We simply couldn’t let our infrastructure further deteriorate and burden business and citizens alike,” Indiana Chamber CEO Kevin Brinegar said. “This is the type of long-term, needed commitment to improve the state and nation’s infrastructure system that we’ve sought for more than a decade.”
Brian Howey is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana. Follow him on Twitter @hwypol. The opinions are the writer's.