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Weekly Column: Investing In Idaho

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Senators on both sides of the aisle have long agreed on the need to modernize and expand hard infrastructure, and infrastructure investments have traditionally been accomplished through bipartisanship and regular order.  Traditional, hard infrastructure investments include funding of roads and bridges, transit, rail, airports, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, ports and inland waterways, water storage and broadband infrastructure.  The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act focuses on those core elements.


We have to keep pace with Idaho’s rapid growth.  Estimates indicate Idaho has more than 1,000 miles of highway in poor condition, and commutes have grown more than 11 percent over the past 10 years.  According to the American Society of Civil Engineer’s Infrastructure Report Card, Idaho currently has 286 bridges considered to be “structurally deficient.”  Projections also indicate bad roads cost Idaho drivers an average of $394 per year in repair costs.  Further, the severity of wildfires makes clear we cannot let up in working to ensure firefighters and land management agencies have the resources necessary to prepare for wildfire response and reduce the threat of wildfires. 


The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes a number of priorities to help ease these and other challenges in Idaho:


  • Idaho Roads and Highways--Authorizes $1.9 billion for Idaho to construct, rebuild and maintain its roads and highways.


  • Idaho Water Projects--Authorizes $213 million for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in Idaho, and includes funding for Bureau of Reclamation water storage, groundwater and conveyance projects in Idaho that include water storage for the Boise River Project.  


  • Idaho Airports--$25 billion nationwide for additional airport improvement projects, such as assistance with expansions, planning, runway rebuilding and improvements, lighting and air navigation facilities.  This is in addition to $13 million in federal Airport Improvement Program grants the Federal Aviation Administration announced for Idaho’s airports earlier this year.


  • Idaho Bridges--$225 million for bridge construction, maintenance and repair in Idaho.   


  • Idaho Wildfire Risk Reduction--More than $3.3 billion available for Idaho and other states for wildland firefighting efforts and an additional $5.75 billion nationwide for natural resources infrastructure, including fire management and reduction. 


  • Idaho Counties--The measure includes a three-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program, through Fiscal Year 2023.  SRS payments are critical to maintain education programs for many rural counties that contain federal lands exempt from property taxes.  Idaho counties are receiving $19.2 million in SRS payments this year.


  • Idaho’s Nuclear Leadership--Infrastructure planning for small modular reactors and micro reactors is included.  The bill also includes a civil nuclear grant program based on legislation I am working to advance this Congress to provide a comprehensive approach to help empower the long-term viability of our nation’s diverse energy portfolio and further facilitate our nuclear competitiveness through greater collaboration with our allies, workforce development and deployment of advanced nuclear energy technologies.


  • Idaho Connectivity--$100 million for broadband expansion in Idaho, with extra funding based on maps created by legislation I helped enact, which show where additional broadband is most needed.  As more Americans have worked from home and homeschooled students during the pandemic, the importance of expansive and reliable broadband technology has been accentuated.


  • Reduces federal over-regulation--Reforms the permitting process to speed construction projects. 


These are just some of the many provisions Idaho would benefits from in this legislation. 


It does not raise taxes.  It reprioritizes the use of certain unused COVID-relief funds away from bailouts and idle funds, shifting them toward supply-side investments that will provide benefits to Idahoans for many years.  Because this infrastructure spending focuses on long-term productivity rather than near-term demand, it will not be inflationary.  In fact, it will counteract the inflationary pressures we are seeing as a result of excessive spending.  This is especially critical right now, as rising prices impact families and small businesses across America.  We were successful in keeping out of this bill changes to states’ Right-to-Work status and increased funding for the Internal Revenue Service.


This bipartisan investment in our nation’s essential infrastructure needs is far different from my Democrat colleagues’ partisan $3.5 trillion uncontrolled tax-and-spend proposals.  I will continue to fight against this kind of partisan, irresponsible spending.  We should instead be building on time-proven, pro-growth policies, such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, not reversing them to fund a reckless spending spree.


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