Submitted by Senator Roger Wicker
Bipartisan Bill to Invest Billions in Mississippi Projects
After months of negotiations, the Senate recently passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill that will make historic investments in our nation’s physical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, ports, rail, and broadband. I voted “yes” on the final package because of the tremendous impact these investments will have in Mississippi.
I was involved in bipartisan talks with the President from the beginning of the negotiating process. There were periods of stand-off when the two sides could not agree, but negotiators eventually united around a much smaller bill focusing on core infrastructure priorities that provide direct benefits to our communities. The bill is still far from perfect, but I believe these targeted investments will pave the way for significant economic growth in Mississippi.
Billions for Mississippi Roads, Bridges, Rail, Water Projects
The bipartisan package incorporated all of the surface transportation bill that I helped negotiate as the lead Republican on the Commerce Committee, and which passed out of our committee 25-3. The provisions in that bill will ensure Mississippi gets a fair shake in competitive transportation grant programs, which total more than $20 billion. As a result of the overall infrastructure package, Mississippi will receive $3.3 billion for roads and highways and $225 million for bridges. We will also be able to compete for funding from another $12.5 billion in bridge grants.
Mississippi residents know these investments are badly needed. Our state has nearly 6,000 miles of highway rated as in poor condition, and over 1,000 bridges also in poor condition. Commute times in Mississippi are up 5.6 percent since 2011, and crumbling roads are costing Mississippi drivers more in vehicle repairs and operating costs. The investments in roads and bridges in this legislation mean Mississippians will have an easier time dropping off their children at school and shorter commutes to work. First responders will also be able to reach those in need more quickly, potentially saving lives.
Separately, this bill provides Mississippi $283 million for water projects and an estimated $100 million for airports. Our ports and rail systems will also benefit. Major construction projects will have an easier time getting underway, as this legislation streamlines the federal permitting process. Additionally, because of an amendment I authored, the bill will authorize the Minority Business Development Agency for the first time ever and strengthen business centers at historically black colleges and universities, which are economic anchors in their communities.
Broadband, Flood Control for Mississippi Communities
In another positive provision, this bill provides $9.5 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, meaning Mississippi will have new funding opportunities for flood control projects and waterways. High-need communities will be first in line for these projects because of an amendment I cosponsored. This should benefit urban areas within the Pearl River Basin, as well as flood-prone areas throughout rural Mississippi.
In a major milestone for broadband, this legislation devotes $65 billion to broadband deployment, including a minimum of $100 million for buildout in Mississippi. No Senator has been a stronger advocate than I have on broadband, which is critical to ensuring that Mississippi is competitive for the next generation. This historic down payment will take us one giant step closer toward connecting our rural communities to the internet.
Republicans Reject Democrats’ Tax-and-Spending Spree
Democrats in Congress should have been content to celebrate these historic, bipartisan investments. Unfortunately, they pivoted quickly to a reckless $4.2 trillion tax-and-spending plan, which passed the Senate without a single Republican vote and which Democrats now hope to push through the House on a razor-thin margin. This proposal would roll back the Trump tax cuts, expand government-run health care, pressure parents to use government-run child care, and give blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants. Republicans stand with the American people in supporting real infrastructure and against this government overreach.
Submitted by Senator Roger Wicker.