Friday, February 12 , 2016, 6:05 am | Fair 47º

Tom Donohue: A Partnership for Infrastructure Investment

By Tom Donohue |

Nearly everyone agrees that a well-maintained infrastructure system could put Americans back to work, spur our economy, enhance our global competitiveness, reduce congestion, improve safety and show that America can still get big things done. But in an era of deficits and budget shortfalls, how are we supposed to pay for it?

One way is through more public-private partnerships (P3s). P3s can help get projects started and completed faster, easing the strain on state budgets and making room to use taxpayer money on projects that can’t attract private investment. There is as much as $250 billion of global private capital available for P3s, and we need to put that money to work.

One example of a successful P3 is the new high-occupancy toll lanes on Virginia’s Beltway, a vital road system surrounding Washington, D.C.

They were funded, built and are now operated by a private company. The company benefits by collecting toll revenue from Virginia drivers who voluntarily use the lanes to save time. The traditional approach would have been to widen current lanes, costing tens of billions of dollars and 10 years’ time.

Despite the clear advantages, these types of partnerships are far too rare in the United States. Thirty-three states have passed legislation allowing P3s, but only some have taken full advantage of it. Even fewer have established offices dedicated to facilitating P3s.

How can we get other states to widely embrace P3s? For starters, all 50 states should pass legislation permitting P3s by the end of next year. The private sector needs to educate state and local officials about the benefits of these projects. Government officials must understand that the private sector is not donating money for free. Sorry, there is no free lunch! Lenders should get their principal back with interest, and investors should expect to make a rate of return.

P3s aren’t the sole solution to our infrastructure funding challenges. We need more public investment through a modest, phased-in increase to the gas tax, which hasn’t been raised in 20 years. We need to rid infrastructure spending of waste and inefficiency so that taxpayers know their money is being spent wisely and on worthy projects. We need to eliminate the bureaucracy and lawsuits that delay or kill infrastructure projects and raise costs.

America’s infrastructure system has delivered enormous benefits to our economy, our country and our way of life for generations. It can continue to do so if we take good care of it.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.

» on 02.20.13 @ 06:51 PM

There is a better way Tom, it’s called a robust economy. You like your democrat opponents have fallen into that same old trap, believing that to get an economy going you need to spend money, any money on anything.

Wrong, to get an economy going you only need to stop taking it from the folks and from those who make things for the folks, feed them and provide shelter, heat and mobility.

I to am dismayed at what a third world country we have become, but unlike my democrat liberal friends and apparently a lot of conservative republican friends, I do not believe its due to not spending enough by government on anything in particular.

California once had the distinction of being the most prolific freeway builder. Now it costs 20 times more than in 1965 and takes decades to get any freeway work done here. It’s not for lack of money Tom, its priorities and meddling by every ding bat alive trying to be a regional transportation planner and the high jacking of that profession by social engineers displacing civil engineers.

No Tom, this country spent the most on infrastructure when its economy provided the means to do it. But we supplanted that means with bureaucrats, mindless politicos and endless middlemen all of whom produce nothing and continue to suck our nation wealth away.

» on 02.20.13 @ 11:20 PM

I agree with Tom. We need much more robust infrastructure investment in the US. We’re falling way behind China, Brasil and many other nations when it comes to investing and maintaining infrastructure. And investment takes $$$. No way around it. 

AN50 I understand your logic, but mostly that is an outmoded, outdated world view. People that relish or opine for the “good old days” are usually white males, since the “old days” weren’t so nice for women or minorities.

Plus, we now have to build infrastructure in developed environments which takes more $$$ to buy right-of-way, and costs more for construction. In the glory days when CA was building freeways, this was mostly on virgin land when the state’s population was 10-15 million. It’s now almost 40 million. Times have changed. Things are more complicated.

» on 02.21.13 @ 01:28 PM

VoR, you still have to PAY for it. Do you understand that concept? I know it’s hard to imagine in a country borrowing and printing its vapor prosperity like we do today, actually EARNING what it consumes or spends, but sooner or later you do have to pay.

Your partisan quip about “old white males” shows a very disconcerting lack of depth in your thinking. Explain, along with Tom, where the money comes from to pay for infrastructure, and yes it is more complicated today, but mostly unnecessarily so because people with an inflated sense of self importance keep mucking things up in areas they have no reason to be in and all the more reason to have an economy that produces enough surplus wealth to pay for all your environmental lawyers sucking off the public trough.

Since you mentioned China why are they on a multi trillion dollar infrastructure building binge? Because while we are drowning in a sea of debt, their economy is growing at an 8% clip, in a friggen global recession, no less, hence they can afford it.

What Tom should be proposing is changing trade laws, relaxing regulations on the environment and labor and reducing taxes on manufacturing so all that money China makes making our stuff, gets made here, Then you can have your damned infrastructure.

You choose VoR, do you want a country full of lawyers, politicians, middlemen, brokers, bankers and service workers and going broke? Or get off your ass and start making the worlds stuff again and be prosperous? The only thing outmoded is this fairytale ponzi scheme idea that you can grow an economy and build real intrinsic wealth just moving wealth around. In case you haven’t noticed yet, that idea drowned the summer of 2008.

» on 02.21.13 @ 04:03 PM

AN50, I’m not quite sure what your point there is, but we have plenty of money to pay for things like infrastructure investment. We just need to re-shuffle WHAT we decide to spend our money on.

Let’s start by smartly reducing the defense budget. In 2013, we have drones and no longer need massive land forces. This alone, combined with the ending of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would create the capacity to shift financial resources toward infrastructure.

Also, if you look at California’s Self-Help model of having county and city sales tax dedicated to transportation infrastructure, it’s been very successful and funds a great deal of improvement and maintenance projects. We need to do more of this focused effort nationwide.

» on 02.21.13 @ 05:34 PM

Wonder if Tom has bought some tea bags lately, and had tea with his Tea Party
political pals lately?

They almost unanimously oppose spending any federal money to maintain public, federal infrastructure.

That’s a lot of construction and building materials jobs we’re talking about, that
could pump a lot of new money into the economy.

Maybe Donohue should be talking to Rand Paul, rather than Noozhawk readers.
That’s the dark mental corner where the loudest nyet! is coming from in the Party of NO! these days.

» on 02.22.13 @ 06:55 PM

VoR we are running a $16 trillion debt, spending $1.3 trillion more than we confiscate each year. How in the world is that having plenty of money? And please don’t give me that “oh the rich have plenty” crap. The wealthy have most of their wealth already invested in the economy, meaning the net wealth you can confiscate is still less than the current federal deficit.

That is the point VoR, we are living way beyond our means, privately and publically, but mostly publically. There is no money to shuffle. What ever you want to take from some other area of spending must be used to pay off our debt, not build more crap we cannot afford.

How in the world can you not see that? What is so damned hard to understand about earning what you spend? I guess you like so many both on the right and the left are so immersed in this ponzi scheme economic culture that you really do believe you can get something from nothing.

Publius veiled attempt at avoiding the vulgar tea bag term fails right alone with his lie about the party of no comment. Publius prove your assertion that the republicans are the ones saying no and not the democrats, I dare you.

» on 03.04.13 @ 10:57 PM

Just what I thought, nothing from VoR and Publius is a drive by commentator.

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