President Biden recently unveiled his American Jobs Plan, an ambitious $2 trillion infrastructure plan. In addition to investing in rebuilding the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, there would be strong focus on resiliency and sustainability. The plan would also focus on improving drinking water infrastructure, energy infrastructure, and high-speed broadband infrastructure.
The American Jobs Plan would also invest in building and upgrading public schools and community colleges, childcare facilities, affordable housing, VA hospitals and clinics, and federal buildings. Like most major infrastructure plans, there’s a big focus on jobs creation to make it all happen, which is welcome news to the construction industry.
The plan also includes items not typically found in an infrastructure spending plan like investing in research and development, improving manufacturing supply lines, electrifying vehicles, addressing climate change, and improving racial and gender equity.
So, how much money are we talking for future construction projects and what’s the timeline for putting the plan into action? Let’s start by looking at how much would be spent in some key areas. The American Jobs Plan calls for investing:
- $115 billion to modernize 20,000 miles of bridges, highways, roads, and main streets
- $20 billion to improve road safety
- $85 billion to modernize public transportation stations, tracks, signals, and power systems
- $80 billion to address Amtrak’s repair backlog
- $25 billion in airports including terminal renovations and multimodal connections
- $17 billion in inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry, and ferries
- $20 billion in infrastructure to reconnect urban neighborhoods cut off by highways
- $25 billion for projects too large or complex for existing funding programs
- $50 billion to improve infrastructure resilience
Water & Sewer Infrastructure
- $45 billion to replace 100% of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines
- $56 billion to modernize water, wastewater, and stormwater systems
- $10 billion to remediate polyfluoroalkyl or perfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water
High-Speed Broadband Infrastructure
- $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach 100% of the nation
- $100 billion in electric power generation and transmission, including clean energy
- $5 billion to remediate and redevelop idle industrial and energy sites
- $213 billion in affordable and sustainable housing
- $100 billion to build and upgrade public schools
- $12 billion for community college construction
- $18 billion to modernize Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics
- $10 billion to modernize federal buildings
- $40 billion to upgrade laboratories, including brick and mortar facilities
This plan sounds great for the construction industry, with lots of additional money being spent on infrastructure and construction projects. The problem is, as of now, it’s just a plan. Sure, there’s even an outline of where changes to the corporate tax code will raise the $2 trillion price tag over 15 years to fund the plan.
First, a bill would need to be introduced in the House or Senate, goes to committee, gets debated and voted on, once it passes it goes to the other house of Congress and the same thing happens, then the House and Senate work together to reconcile their versions of the bill, and then on to the President to sign into law. Simple, right? Plus, infrastructure is supposed to be one of those few bipartisan issues that everyone can get behind and support.
Recent History of Presidential Infrastructure Plans
Let’s look at what history has to say on the matter. President Trump released a massive infrastructure plan in 2018 which would have used $200 billion in federal funds to spur on $1.5 trillion in private investments. Trump also pushed for a fourth stimulus package to help mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic that would have included $2 trillion for infrastructure improvements. Neither came to fruition.
President Obama tried multiple times to get a large infrastructure plan passed as well as introducing a national infrastructure bank to attract private investment. Other than the short-term reauthorization of existing infrastructure spending bills, the best Obama could muster was a five-year, $305 billion transportation infrastructure package back in 2015.
Funding Infrastructure Spending
And, yes, infrastructure packages tend to get bipartisan support in Congress, but there’s typically disagreements about how much is being spent and where the funding will come from. This is usually when the discussion about raising the federal gas tax comes in, something that hasn’t been done since 1993 and sits at 18.4 cents per gallon, but Biden has said that’s not being considered.
In Biden’s American Jobs Plan, funding would come from the Made in America Tax Plan, which would make a number of reforms to the corporate tax code. In that plan the corporate tax rate would increase from 21 percent to 28 percent. (In 2017, Trump got the tax law changed to drop the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.)
AGC’s Take on the American Jobs Plan
The AGC responded to Biden’s infrastructure plan shortly after it was released. While they cheered the focus on rebuilding and mordernizing aging infrastructure and buildings, the organization felt that the plan’s proposals to raise corporate taxes, create new regulatory requirements, and impose new labor measures were misguided. One of the big sticking point’s is opposition to the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act which the plan calls for passing.
Here’s what AGC of America CEO Steve Sandherr had to say after the plan was released: “We greet the President’s new infrastructure proposal with mixed emotions. On one hand, the President is right to focus on rebuilding a broad range of aging and overburdened infrastructure and modernizing buildings. These investments will create a significant number of new construction career opportunities that traditionally pay well above jobs in other industries. Unfortunately, the President seeks to saddle these new investments with a host of labor and regulatory measures that will hurt workers and offset many of the economic benefits of these new infrastructure investments.”
Potential Impact on Construction Industry
A massive infrastructure bill would be a boon to the construction industry. That kind of investment would result in a lot of new projects and increase construction spending while also creating a significant number of good paying jobs in the industry. But, until there’s an infrastructure spending bill introduced, and it starts making its way through the legislative process, the American Jobs Plan remains a pipe dream. The more likely scenario to unfold will be an infrastructure plan that is scaled down in scope and cost.
Guest blog post courtesy of Kendall Jones, Editor in Chief at ConstructConnect:
Kendall Jones is the Editor in Chief at ConstructConnect. He has been writing and blogging about the construction industry for 8 years, covering a wide range of topics from safety and technology to industry news and operating insights.
ConstructConnect is a leading provider of construction information and technology solutions in North America and is committed to transforming the way the construction industry does business by providing its customers the tools, information, and connections needed to drive their success. ConstructConnect brings the construction industry together with the most complete, accurate, and actionable construction data and tools to drive success in national, regional, and local markets. For more information, visit constructconnect.com.