Investing in Infrastructure

Apr 21, 2017 Issues: Rural Development, Transportation

One issue most Americans agree on is the importance of investing in our infrastructure. Significant repairs are needed to keep our country strong and competitive.  

In Nebraska, we know infrastructure is crucial to connecting rural communities. U.S. News & World Report included Nebraska in its April 2017 “10 Best States for Infrastructure” ranking, but there is still a lot of work to do.

President Trump made infrastructure one of his top priorities on the campaign trail, and for good reason. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, an additional $2 trillion in investment will be needed by 2025 to get our country’s infrastructure to “a state of good repair.”  

During his address to Congress in late February, President Trump reiterated his support for revitalizing America’s infrastructure. “Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land,” he said.  

In discussions on infrastructure, the President has pointed out the need for better negotiations to ensure we do not simply sink more money into the same number of projects. We also must prevent any infrastructure package from expanding unrelated programs or permanently growing the federal government. We saw this problem in full force in President Obama’s “stimulus” package – in the end, only around three percent went to infrastructure.

As the White House works with Congress to make President Trump’s revitalization vision a reality, irrigation infrastructure must be part of the conversation. Today, 55.3 million acres are irrigated in the U.S. using shared systems of canals and pipelines which are part of our nation’s broader water management infrastructure. Through irrigation, we can produce higher yields using less land, while also improving crop quality.  

Producers, especially in the west, rely on irrigation to meet the ever-growing demand for food. Unfortunately, irrigation infrastructure has lagged behind other technological advancements in the industry.

At the Farm Bill listening sessions I hosted in Scottsbluff and Aurora this week, concerns were raised about the state of irrigation infrastructure in Nebraska and around the country. President Trump’s commitment presents an opportunity to modernize our outdated irrigation infrastructure and increase our global competitiveness in agriculture. I am currently circulating a letter among my House colleagues to send to the President requesting irrigation projects be included in his infrastructure plan.

Since the release of President Trump’s initial budget proposal, I have also heard numerous concerns about the future of the Essential Air Service (EAS). Access to reliable air service is vital for rural travelers and businesses. Though the President’s budget is presented as a guideline, budgeting decisions lie with the legislative branch. I am committed to ensuring no final budget disproportionally impacts rural areas.  

Last year, Congress included my legislation to help small airports in the FAA reauthorization bill, which shows an understanding of the need to support rural commercial air service. Senator Deb Fischer also provided crucial leadership in the Senate on these issues. Rather than ending the EAS program, we should examine potential reforms to ensure travelers are being well-served and taxpayer dollars are being spent as effectively as possible.

There is extensive work to be done to ensure our infrastructure can meet the modern needs of our country. I am optimistic about the opportunities to bring Americans together around fulfilling this important function of government.