Warren Makes the Case for Investing in Green Infrastructure
Warren's Wealth Tax and Other Tax Proposals Could Pay For These Investments
Washington, DC - At today's Senate Finance Committee hearing, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made the case for large-scale federal investments in infrastructure, as well as her Wealth Tax and other tax proposals as a way to pay for these investments.
Right now, America is failing to adequately fund basic road maintenance and repairs, much less invest in transit modernization and electrification. This holds back our economy, contributes to the climate crisis, and harms public health, especially in minority communities. Senator Warren has two bills to fix this: the BUILD GREEN Infrastructure and Jobs Act with Senator Markey and Representatives Levin and Ocasio-Cortez that would invest $500 billion over ten years to help achieve an all-electric public vehicles and rail and her forthcoming Buy Green Act with Congressman Levin which will establish a further $1.5 trillion in federal procurement to purchase American-made clean energy products for federal, state, and local use, and for export.
Victoria Sheehan, President of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, agreed with Senator Warren when asked about the need for large-scale investments in transit electrification to help communities across the country. Heather Buch, Chair of National Association of Counties Transportation/Highways Committee, responded to Senator Warren, underscoring the need for the federal government to be involved. She said, "While we are doing our part on the local level, counties are limited in a variety of ways from raising any local revenue. We rely on the strength of the intergovernmental partnership to deliver those critical infrastructure projects that our residents need and expect."
In response to Senator Warren, Dr. Joseph Kile, Director of Microeconomic Analysis, Congressional Budget Office (CBO), said that school teachers pay more as a share of their incomes because their incomes are lower. Senator Warren's Wealth Tax, Real Corporate Profits Tax, and IRS enforcement proposals would raise $6 trillion without raising taxes on 99.9% of Americans by a single penny, enough to pay for President Biden's American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan and still have $2 trillion left over.
Transcript: Funding and Financing Options to Bolster
U.S. Senate Finance Committee
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
Senator Warren: The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how crucial infrastructure is to making our economy and our communities work. And that includes the roads and buses that Americans take to work or to school, but it also includes the child care that allows parents to go to work, and the high-speed internet that allows our kids to rely-- that our kids rely on for their studies.
And yet our investments in all of that vital infrastructure have been both inadequate and inequitable. So take our roads, which earned a "D" on the most recent infrastructure report card from the American Society for Civil Engineers. One out of every five miles of American highways and roads is in poor condition.
So we are failing to adequately fund basic road maintenance and repairs, much less invest in transit modernization and electrification. It holds back our economy. This contributes to climate crisis. It harms public health, especially in minority communities.
Ms. Sheehan, you have worked for over a decade on public transit, including bridges and highways in Massachusetts. So let me ask you. Would large-scale investments in transit electrification help communities across the country?
Ms. Sheehan: Thank you for that question, Senator. And the answer is yes. Transit agencies and DOT are embracing electrification. I believe at this point, transit agencies in over 40 states have chosen to pursue electric bus purchases despite the higher initial purchase prices because the benefits justify that additional investment with significant cost savings in terms of operations because of the increased fuel efficiencies. So it's about a 78% lower lifetime fuel cost compared to traditional vehicles. But most importantly, these vehicles are quieter and there's 100% reduction in tailpipe emissions which improves quality of life for everyone who lives adjacent to public transit routes. That's why our states are continuing to pursue these investments.
Senator Warren: So thank you. That's very helpful, Ms. Sheehan. Here we are falling behind on these investments. We need to go big to combat climate change and grow our economy. Now, President Biden has proposed investing $174 billion dollars in vehicle electrification, which is a good start. The BUILD GREEN Infrastructure and Jobs Act that I introduced with Senator Markey and Representatives Levin and Ocasio-Cortez would invest $500 billion dollars over ten years to help get us to all-electric public vehicles and rail. My forthcoming Buy Green Act with Congressman Levin will establish a further $1.5 trillion dollars in federal procurement to purchase American-made clean energy products for federal, state, and local use, and for export.
Ms. Buch, let me ask you. You work with local governments all across the country. Can we rely on local government to generate the revenue needed to make these big investments in transit modernization and electrification, or does the federal government need to step up if we're going to make this happen?
Ms. Buch: Chair Wyden. Senator Warren. While we are doing our part on the local level, counties are limited in a variety of ways from raising any local revenue. We rely on the strength of the intergovernmental partnership to deliver those critical infrastructure projects that our residents need and expect. Counties urge Congress to direct funds to locally-owned infrastructure that will allow us to better meet the needs of our community.
Senator Warren: Good. Thank you, I agree with you on this. President Biden has proposed raising taxes on the wealthy and on giant corporations to pay for these vital investments in our nation's infrastructure. Meanwhile, Republicans have proposed imposing user fees and fuel taxes rather than raise taxes on the wealthy and on big corporations.
So Dr. Kile, let me ask you a question around this. Let's assume that a schoolteacher making the average teaching salary in Massachusetts and a CEO making millions of dollars a year both have the same distance to drive as their commute to work, and they use the same number of gallons of gas a year. Which one of them pays more as a share of their income when we pay for infrastructure investments by imposing a gasoline tax?
Dr. Kile: So Senator, gasoline taxes tend to be regressive in that they impose a larger burden on, in terms of share of income that goes to pay for those taxes, on people in the lower- and middle- income quintiles than they'd do on the upper income quintiles.
Senator Warren: You just said in a fancier way: so the schoolteacher pays more as a share of his or her income than the wealthy person does if you use these user fees. I hope I got that right. Is that right, Dr. Kile?
Dr. Kile: Yes. In the scenario you had, that was correct.
Senator Warren: Good. You know it is absurd to suggest that we should finance this investment on the backs of schoolteachers, firefighters, and small business owners.
President Biden and I have both put forward full menus of options for paying for these long-overdue investments in our shared infrastructure, options that are not going to hurt the very people who are struggling the most to recover from this pandemic.
My wealth tax, real corporate profits tax, tax enforcement plan. Those three things would raise $6 trillion dollars without raising taxes on 99.9% of Americans by a single penny. And that's enough to pay for every penny of President Biden's American Jobs Plan, to pay for every single penny of his American Families Plan, and to still have $2 trillion dollars left over.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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