A version of this story originally appeared in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
Unveiling what he called the boldest domestic spending package since the construction of America’s interstate highway system and the dawning of the space race, President Joe Biden returned to Pennsylvania on Wednesday, releasing the broad details of a $2 trillion infrastructure package that would rebuild highways and bridges, along with providing funding programs for housing, broadband and schools and increasing U.S. manufacturing jobs over the next eight years.
“This is a once in a generation investment in America,” Biden said during his appearance at a union training center in Pittsburgh. ”We’ll grow the economy, and it will make us more competitive around the world. It’s big, yes, It’s bold, yes. And we can get it done.”
The package, part of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, would fund typical infrastructure projects such as rebuilding roads, advancing the country’s transition to electric vehicle charging stations, and combating climate change.
The sweeping program would be paid for through a tax hike on corporations, raising the rate from 21% to 28%. The Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank that’s part of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, estimates that reform alone is worth $730 billion over 10 years.
Biden told the crowd Wednesday that he wasn’t targeting wealthy Americans, and he pledged that no American who earns under $400,000 would see their taxes increase. Rather, he said, it was about leveling the playing field and making sure that hugely wealthy corporations pay their fair share.
“This is not to target those who made it … this is about opening opportunities for everyone else,” he said. “We will all do better when we all do well. It’s time to rebuild the economy from the middle out, not the top down. Wall Street didn’t build this country, you, the great middle class, built this country. And unions built the middle class. And this time, when we rebuild the middle class, we’re going to bring everyone along.”
The plan also aims to bring clean energy manufacturing jobs to communities that rely on the coal industry in an effort to encourage manufacturers to locate in those areas.
“Imagine knowing you’re handing your children and grandchildren a country that leads the world in clean energy production,” he said.
Here’s some more of what the infrastructure plan would do:
- Modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads and streets.
- Repair 10 of the most significant bridges in need of fixing, and repair 10,000 of the worst, smaller bridges.
- Double federal funding for public transportation and bring rail and bus services to communities that have been systematically excluded from those resources.
- Build a network of 500,000 electrical vehicle chargers, replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrify 20% of the yellow bus fleet (school buses).
- Provide $50 billion to make infrastructure more climate resilient and target 40 percent of that investment to disadvantaged communities.
- Pay for extending broadband to rural Americans, improving water quality, strengthening the electric grid and building affordable housing.
- Replace 100 percent of lead pipes and service lines in the U.S., and reduce lead exposure in 400,000 schools and child care facilities.
- Spend $400 billion in expanding access to affordable home or community-based care for thousands of seniors and people with disabilities to support long-term care.
Biden’s plan faces a tough road on Capitol Hill, and may have to be passed through the reconciliation process, bypassing Republicans.
But as Politico reported Tuesday, the plan also may have to overcome skepticism among Democrats who think it doesn’t go far enough. Among them is U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who said the package “is not nearly enough” and “needs to be way bigger.”
For its part, the White House is looking for bipartisan support for the bill.
“Historically, infrastructure had been a bipartisan undertaking, often led by Republicans,” Biden said, pointing to President Abraham Lincoln’s role in building the transcontinental railroad and President Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership in the construction of interstate highways.
“So there’s no reason why it can’t be bipartisan,” Biden said. “The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing the right things for the future.”
In response to the presidential announcement, a group of more than 360 local elected officials from across the United States called on Biden and Congress to approve “robust infrastructure funding to make our communities healthier and protect the environment.”
States Newsroom reporter Ariana Figueroa contributed to this story.