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David Pendered

Reed supports Obama’s national infrastructure repair plan, although it’s been drowned out by sequester

By David Pendered

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Wednesday strongly endorsed one of President Obama’s domestic proposals, even as it has been swept from the stage by debate over budget cuts known as the sequester.

Obama and Reed

President Obama and Mayor Kasim Reed were together in March 2012, during an Obama fund-raising trip to Atlanta. Credit: kasimreed.com

During Obama’s State of the Union message, the president reintroduced the idea of repairing the nation’s transportation infrastructure. The plan is to fix worn roads, bridges, ports, water and sewerage, and transit – and to pay for the upgrades with measures including a national infrastructure bank.

Reed has counted on federal support to help pay for some of the $922 million backlog in Atlanta’s infrastructure needs. Reed remains bullish on the president’s proposal, despite the relative silence about it since the president’s speech on Feb. 12.

The mayor said Wednesday through his spokeswoman, Sonji Jacobs Dade, that he:

  • “Supports President Obama’s proposal to help fund much-needed infrastructure repair work in cities and states across the nation.  The city of Atlanta is about halfway through a $4 billion sewer and water repair project and has an infrastructure backlog of more than $900 million.”

That $900 million-plus is an enormous sum, six times greater than the city’s sweeping effort to repair its infrastructure before the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. That repair package came with a price tag of $150 million, paid for through bonds approved by Atlanta voters in a referendum.

Dade’s message from the mayor continued:

  • “A national infrastructure bank that has the ability to leverage private and public capital to support infrastructure projects would help make our nation stronger and create well-paying jobs.”
John Kerry's move to secretary of state distances him from efforts to create a national infrastructure bank. Here, Kerry stands before the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin. Credit: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

John Kerry’s move to secretary of state distances him from efforts to create a national infrastructure bank. Here, Kerry stands before the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, during his first overseas trip in his new post. Credit: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

Among the challenges facing the creation of a national infrastructure bank is one of sponsorship. The two senators who sponsored legislation to form a bank have left the chamber – John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, is now secretary of state, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican who didn’t seek reelection in 2012. No other flag bearers have come forward.

Another issue is whether Congress has an appetite for increased spending at a time all eyes are on cost-cutting proposals. The White House issued a statement that outlines some details of the proposal. The statement does not indicate a pathway to getting it enacted.

Here are some highlights of the infrastructure bank, according to the White House statement. The bank will:

  • Be able to leverage private and public money to promote projects of national and regional significance;
  • Be able to invest through loans and loan guarantees;
  • Operate as, “an independent, wholly owned government entity outside of political influence.”

This isn’t the only funding source proposed by the president.

Another leg of the proposed funding platform is a bond program named America Fast Forward (AFF bonds). This program would be styled after the Build America Bonds (BABs) that provided more than $181 billion into public infrastructure as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to the White House statement.

The third and final leg of Obama’s infrastructure funding proposal is the federal transportation funding act, known as TIFIA – Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. Congress greatly expanded the credit program, which leverages federal funds with private investments to build transportation projects that are nationally significant.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. writes_of_weigh February 28, 2013 12:05 am

    The proposal (in part) for “an independent, wholly owned government entity, (free from?)outside of political influence” sounds like an attempt to regurgitate AmQuack(er Trak)…..if it walks and talks like a duck….and I can just hear Herman Cain inquiring,
    “How’s that workin’ for ya?”.Report

  2. Burroughston Broch February 28, 2013 7:19 pm

    Let’s see. “Independent, wholly government owned, outside of political influence.”
    Like FannieMae and FreddieMac today.
    Independent of what? Politicians?
    Wholly government owned – and bankrupt.
    Outside of political influence? Not on your life.Report

  3. writes_of_weigh March 1, 2013 10:29 am

    This plan is now likely “snake bit” erstwhile known as sequestrated. Soooo elected officials and transportation planners, what are your plans B & C for this scenario? You did receive a paycheck for such, right? Or was that too, outsourced to some third world backwater friend of bidness? Taxed Enough Already INDEED!Report


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