On Friday, July 12, the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program held a policy forum – “Can-Do States: A New Era for Infrastructure Investment” – to discuss the potential that states have to achieve the infrastructure upgrades that many of them require in an environment of funding challenges.
Brookings Vice President Bruce Katz indicated that a state of the art infrastructure drives “competitiveness, job creation, and innovation” and that it is the “backbone of a healthy economy.” He also said that it is networks of leaders in many states and metro areas who are pushing the development of economically important infrastructure “in the absence of clear federal leadership” from Washington.
Mr. Robert Puentes, the Senior Director of Brookings’ Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative stressed that America’s competitors are in the process of making upgrades to their infrastructure systems that will provide them with sustainable growth, while “infrastructure in the U.S. had fallen from best in the world to 25th in the world in ten years.” Mr. Puentes said there are a handful of Can-Do states, which are “working to develop the new rules, new tools, and new institutions to fund and finance infrastructure projects and engage in new kinds of problem solving.”
A panel of four policy experts followed Mr. Puentes, and one in particular, Mr. Tony Kinn, Director of the Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships for the Virginia DOT exemplified the Can-Do approach states are taking. Mr. Kinn said their one function is production, explaining that there is strong support throughout Virginia’s legislative and executive leadership for infrastructure projects as a key means of economic growth, which allows his office to use limited state funds to go forth with meaningful projects on a business-like approach.
Finally, the former Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuno, provided keynote remarks where he concluded that the U.S. is competing for jobs that could be done anywhere in the world, and that China, India and Brazil are investing heavily in infrastructure. “We need to as well in order to increase our quality of life, to make us more competitive, and create jobs here in America,” said the Governor.