A survey of the candidates seeking election to the House of Representatives shows increasing concern about the nation's funding of infrastructure repair, with 93% saving the federal government should spend more in that area.
An accompanying report "strongly suggests" that change is needed in funding improvements to the nation's infrastructure and providing for long-term capital budgets, and streasses the need to create a national bond bank.
The National Council of Mayors, in conjunction with the Rebuild America Coalition, sent the survey to over 800 candidates seeking election to the House. It received responses from 36% of the candidates: 88 Republicans and 90 Democrats.
"What was truly surprising was the bipartisan response from the candidates, " said Carol Everett, executive director of the coalition. "Across the board, there is a growing concern about the infrastructure needs."
Over the last 20 years, the United States has decreased its annual investment in infrastructure by 38%. according to a report by the federal government.
According to the report by the mayors group and the Rebuild America Coalition, 1.3% of United States' gross domestic product is spent on the nation's bridges. roads, sewers, and other public works. Japan spends the higheat percentage, 5.7%. on such needs, while fifth-ranked France spends 2.7%.
Everett also reported that 97% of the respondents favored the gradual spending of a $30 billion pool of federally allocated unspent funds for infrastructure and opposed using the funds to offset the federal budget deficit.
The majority of candidates do not, however, support an increase of the gasoline tax to offset infrastructure spending, the survey says. Rather, they are more inclined to spend the pool of unused funds and then develop a better spending policy for the future.
The survey also shows that 91% of those polled support easing infrastructure frastructure in the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which limited the amount of tax-exempt financing that may be used for infrastructure projects.
"The overall changes to the tax-ability to complete capital infrastructure programs." said Richard Geltman. vice president of inter-governmental relations at the Public Securities Association.
"One of the largest hindrances to these projects comes out of the restrictions that were placed on the usage of tax-exempt bonds. That radically change the way these large capital projects have been funded and localities' ability to undertake them."
Everett said a large number of candidates suggested, although not as strongly, that a capital assistance program be established to help offset the amount that state and local governments are required to pay to meet federally mandated programs.
The groups' report says the establishment of such a program and a corresponding capital budget plan would make it easier for both federal and local governments to plan for future capital expenses.
Examples of these expenses would be highway construction, integration more communities into mass transit systems, water and sewer projects, and schools.
The survey also shows 69% of the candidates support the creation of a national infrastructure bond bank.
The bank would be capitalized by the temporary appropriation of funds or by selling debt. and would be similar to the state bond bank programs.
A member of the coalition's steering committee, Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson. said he was encouraged with the results of the survey.
"The mayor was pleased that the infrastructure needs of the country are starting to be addressed on a national level," said Deb Speights. a spokeswoman for Jackson. "All of the groups involved in the survey worked very diligently to complete this survey prior to the election."
Geltman said the responses should be useful in two ways.
"First, it will educate the new legislature about the concerns of infrastructure," he said. "Secondly, it will allow us to remind the new legislators about their promises."