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House Democrats reemerge talks of a comprehensive infrastructure package

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi revealed plan to propose a $1 trillion infrastructure package The proposed package would combine a surface transportation reauthorization bill and the Water Resources Development Act, which expire September 30, 2020

Talks of a major comprehensive infrastructure package have reemerged on Capitol Hill after negotiations between House Democrats and the White House stalled earlier this year in May.

On November 13, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said House Democrats plan to propose a $1 trillion infrastructure package by bundling major legislation that typically moves separately. The plan would combine a surface transportation reauthorization bill and a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) authorization, both of which expire September 30, 2020. The proposed package would also include items related to broadband and pipeline safety.

Surface transportation reauthorizations and WRDA provide significant funding for county-owned and operated infrastructure, and the two packages are traditionally authorized every five and two years, respectively.

The FAST Act was the last surface transportation reauthorization signed into law in 2015, and it included $305 billion over fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for highway development and maintenance, highway and motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, rail and research, technology and statistics programs.

Congress has already begun work on a new surface transportation reauthorization that will impact counties. In July 2019, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee unanimously passed a five-year, $287 billion surface transportation reauthorization measure spanning FY 2021 through 2025. The bill is currently awaiting floor action and the addition of other titles related to rail and safety, mass transit and funding from other Senate committees of jurisdiction, including the Commerce, Banking, and Finance Committees, respectively. The House is expected to unveil companion legislation in early 2020, which will need to be conferenced with the Senate version prior to the president signing the measure into law.  

Unlike the surface transportation reauthorization, WRDA legislation is authorized on a two-year cycle with the last authorization passed in 2018. WRDA bills authorize water resources studies and projects and set policies for navigation, flood control, hydropower, recreation, water supply and emergency management for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. This legislation addresses county interests related to ports, inland waterways, levees, dams, wetlands, watersheds and coastal restoration.

Congress is currently in the process of drafting new WRDA legislation. The legislation is expected to be released early 2020 in the Senate, while the House is not expected to markup its bill until next summer.

As Congress reconsiders a comprehensive infrastructure package, counties must be recognized as major owners of infrastructure in any legislation related to transportation and/or water infrastructure. Counties invest $122 billion annually owning and operating public works and believe that federal funding levels should adequately reflect the significant role that counties play in these systems nationwide. We stand ready to work with Congress and the administration as they work towards a comprehensive infrastructure package.

For more information on county priorities for infrastructure legislation, please find additional resources below.

Additional Resources:
Support County Priorities in Any New Federal Infrastructure Package
Support County Priorities in a Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill
Support Authorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

About Zach George (Full Bio)

Legislative Assistant

Zach George joined NACo in March 2016 and serves as a Legislative Assistant. He is responsible for writing and editing blog articles, conducting legislative research and providing legislative support for Environment, Energy and Land Use; Transportation; Telecommunications and Technology; and the Gulf Coast Counties and Parishes Coalition.

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