President Barack Obama

Water, Energy, and Transportation: President Obama Backs Infrastructure Bank in Jobs Speech

By Brett Walton
Circle of Blue

Included in the U.S. president’s proposed American Jobs Act is the BUILD Act, allocating $US 10 billion to create a National Infrastructure Bank, governed by an independent board, which would help attract private capital and lower the borrowing costs for public works projects of regional significance.

In a speech Thursday to a joint session of Congress, U.S. President Barack Obama supported a bi-partisan bill that would create a federal fund for financing transportation, water, and energy infrastructure projects.

President Barack Obama“It’s the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike.”

— Barack Obama,
U.S. President

Sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry and Texas Republican Kay Hutchison, the BUILD Act is one of many job-creating proposals that President Obama is rolling into an economic package called the American Jobs Act.

The BUILD Act is supported by both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobby, and the AFL-CIO, its largest labor organization. The bill would allocate $US 10 billion to create a National Infrastructure Bank that would help attract private capital and lower the cost of borrowing for public works. An independent advisory board would be entrusted to select projects based on merit and not political significance.

“It’s the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike,” Obama told Congress during his half-hour speech. “You should pass it right away.”

The projects Obama used to illustrate his point primarily involved transportation — bridges and highways, public transit, and airports. But Michael Likosky, a fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University who has worked with international infrastructure banks for more than 15 years, thinks water projects, such as sewer improvements and water treatment plants, would be very attractive to the bank.

“Water is one of the main areas that will be addressed by the bank. It is one of the areas with the greatest need.”

— Michael Likosky,
NYU Institute for Public Knowledge

“Water is one of the main areas that will be addressed by the bank,” Likosky told Circle of Blue. “It is one of the areas with the greatest need.”

The need to get Americans working again was the overarching theme of the president’s speech. Tax credits, tax cuts, and tax code reform, in addition to infrastructure spending, all factored into Obama’s proposal.

“The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple,” he said, “to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed.”

Brett Walton is a Seattle-based reporter for Circle of Blue. Contact Brett Walton

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Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton
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