Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Rep. Pascrell speaks on the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act, H.R. 537

Mar 10, 2010
Floor Speech

Mr. PASCRELL . I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, if you look at the data, it is clear that since the start of the Obama administration and the passage of the Recovery Act--which you've heard depicted by the three former speakers--we are stemming the number of job losses per month; there is no doubt about that. But we need to do everything we can to actually start gaining jobs instead of just losing fewer. It would seem like the charts, it would seem by the facts that in the next several months we will see, finally, for the first time in several years a plus in terms of the creation of jobs.

The U.S. jobs deficit has reached millions. Our unemployment rate is 9.7 percent. That is an intolerable rate. The problem we are facing is how to address the shortfall in employment opportunities and articulate a new strategy that targets and engages our small businesses and American workers. Mr. Speaker, we simply need jobs.

Which brings me to what I think is the most obvious answer. It was obvious many years ago, it's obvious now: Our infrastructure. Our infrastructure is in disrepair. And it's not just our roads, and it's not just our bridges that are falling down. Earlier this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the Nation's wastewater systems and water systems the lowest grade of any infrastructure category, a D-minus. I want to have our viewers in the House see this. This is a rotted water main pipe, much like the pipes in many of our districts and many of our communities. I like to call these the out-of-sight, out-of-mind pipes; you don't see them until you have a problem with your water main. But as we have learned over the last couple of years, just because our infrastructure needs are not visible doesn't mean that they are not deteriorating.

A quick look at the recent news headlines across the country illustrates the state of our water infrastructure, and I can only list a few because time does not permit: ``Franklin Water Main Break Closes Roads and Schools''; ``Boil your water,'' says Franklin, New Jersey''; ``Lancaster Water Main Breaks''; ``Sinkhole Swallows Car in California''; ``Water Main Break in Manhattan Causes Evacuations in Traffic, Subway Disruptions in New York City''; ``Water Main Break Cuts Off Water Service to the Medical Center in West Virginia.''

Here we have an illustration of the water main break on River Road in Bethesda, Maryland, watching people airlifted out of their cars. We're not making this stuff up; this is real. In metropolitan D.C. on Christmas Eve, 2008, it was quite a spectacle. One headline actually read, ``Water main break forces dramatic rescue of nine.'' The road literally exploded.

We cannot turn a blind eye to two realities: America needs jobs, and our infrastructure cannot put people to work fast enough. As a former mayor of Paterson, New Jersey, I understand the significance of local water and wastewater systems. A strong water infrastructure is essential to the community's public health and economic vitality.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the General Accounting Office estimate that community water systems will require $500 billion above their expected rate of investment in order to meet safe drinking water standards and sanitation needs just over the next 20 years.

As Congress struggles with historic deficits, I strongly believe that we must leverage private capital investment and look at options for public-private partnerships. That is what we are talking about this evening.

In order to encourage this possibility, I introduced the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act, H.R. 537, which will generate significant investment through the use of tax-exempt bonds for water infrastructure, and that is water and wastewater projects.

Congress already exempts airports, intercity rail, and solid waste disposal sites from those bond caps. My bill would remove water infrastructure projects from the cap as well.

By exempting water projects from the bond cap, we can get people working on the very projects to my right in 90 to 120 days. This isn't hot air; this is real relief. This is real jobs. Standard & Poor's estimates that $180 billion in new money infrastructure is available for investment. This capital cannot be deployed until a private activity bond cap exemption is crested.

This legislation aims to repair our crumbling water infrastructure while leveraging private capital to create jobs. Every dollar invested in public water and sewer infrastructure will add $8.97 to the national economy. This is a win-win situation. Economists estimate a $1 billion investment in water infrastructure will create 28,500 local jobs. You cannot in any manner, shape or form produce any other job plan that is going to do what this can do, because these are our needs. These need to be done because things are only going to get worse.

That pipe, which I showed you before, is not going to cleanse itself. It has led that pipe and many other pipes like it to this particular situation of people being airlifted, to rescue workers having to go to a particular community and, of course, to vehicles that have been raised in the air because of the explosion of our water mains.

This would be 28,500 jobs in 1 year. This is bipartisan legislation. Both sides of the aisle have signed onto this. It could put Americans in every State to work within 120 days of its enactment. It is time to focus on creating jobs and on building a strong infrastructure for future generations. Let's stop talking about what needs to get done, and let's actually get this done.

There are huge economic benefits that come with water and wastewater infrastructure projects. In fact, a recent study found that every $1 billion invested in water and wastewater infrastructure creates 27,000 new jobs with average annual earnings of more than $50,000. Each $1 billion invested generates approximately $82.4 million in State and local tax revenue at a time when States and localities need it most.

This chart shows how construction dollars ripple through local communities. Right here, an estimated 20,000 to 26,669 jobs can result from a national investment of $1 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure--everything from construction, to real estate, to retail, to legal services, to the management of companies and enterprises, to private households, and to maintenance and repair. This chart shows how these construction dollars ripple through our entire communities.

Let's face it: as of this unemployment situation that we are in today, 40 percent of those jobs will never return, and 40 percent of those jobs that have been lost--get this--are by people who have been out of work for more than 6 to