Decades of underfunding our infrastructure, of relying upon a patchwork and reactive approaches, have slammed into reality. Our nation faces unprecedented extreme weather events and other challenges from coast to coast, which threaten our well-being.

Thus far, Congress’ response has been inadequate. Where the need for new infrastructure investment is $5 trillion or more, the Senate’s Infrastructure and Jobs Act proposes just $550 billion of new spending. While we support this, it lands far short of the mark.

Citizens need to demand that Congress respond to this crisis in a way which is appropriate: The establishment of a large, $5 trillion National Infrastructure Bank as outlined in House Resolution 3339, which is before Congress.

This $5 trillion public bank does not rely upon the appropriations process. It does not require new federal taxes and will not increase our deficit. By repurposing existing treasury debt, as was done previously in U.S. history, it will finance the indispensable projects which are urgently needed, and quickly. We will be able to build multiple layers at the same time, such as water, sewer, rail and power, all of which inhabit the same space.

Infrastructure requires concerted federal action. Throughout our history, great presidents have deployed similar banks to build public works. George Washington built the early canals, roads and bridges; John Quincy Adams sponsored a network of canals and the early railroads, and Abraham Lincoln used national banking to build the transcontinental railroad and a vast industrial expansion. Today, we need new, large-scale water projects like those last built by President Franklin Roosevelt.

The infrastructure needs of New Mexico are daunting. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, some of the urgent problems include:

u 30 percent of New Mexico roads are in poor condition, and each driver in the state spends nearly $767 annually in car repairs;

u 6.5 percent of our bridges are rated structurally deficient;

u 219 dams are rated high hazard potential;

u The cost to bring drinking water to a state of good repair is over $1.4 billion;

u 20 percent of New Mexico’s students lack internet service at home and 8 percent do not have a computer;

u New Mexico ranks third worst in the nation in the poverty rate of the population (19 percent) and last in child poverty (30 percent);

u New Mexico needs large water projects to bring fresh water into the state to address the drought;

u The power grid in New Mexico must be expanded and upgraded to assimilate the new electricity being produced by renewables and other sources.

Only a National Infrastructure Bank can address this staggering need. It will create tens of millions of new jobs, pay Davis-Bacon wages and mandate Buy American policies. Such a bank would supercharge the U.S. economy and reopen American industry. It will ensure robust minority hiring, promote disadvantaged business enterprises and spawn a resurgence of small business.

It is better to think ahead, and where we will need to be, as we repair and upgrade the current system. Like it or not, we are losing the infrastructure race to China. The Chinese spend 8 percent of their GDP on infrastructure, Europe 5 percent and we spend barely 2 percent. Is it any wonder that our infrastructure is ranked 13th in the world?

Resolutions of endorsement have been pouring in from every part of the country, including state legislatures, city and county councils, and labor and business organizations. A resolution was introduced into the New Mexico Senate this year. Endorsements include: New Mexico LULAC, Central New Mexico Central Labor Council, the Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity, Rio Arriba County Board of Commissioners and others. People want to move beyond “the same old, same old.”

We urge everyone to support House Resolution 3339 and contact your congressional representative to enlist their sponsorship of this measure.

State Sen. Bill Tallman is an Albuquerque Democrat. Other signers include Sens. Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, D-Taos; Harold Pope, D-Albuquerque; and Liz Stefanics, D-Los Cerrillos; and 16 other elected representatives and activists.

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