Where (if anywhere) does infrastructure fall on the radar of America’s governors this year? What are the state’ priorities, and how will they pay for them?
Will bridges get more attention than dams? Does Alabama have a plan for roads, Virginia for water infrastructure, or New York for tunnels?
State of the States
Building America's Future Educational Fund (BAFEF) has been monitoring this month's gubernatorial "State of the State" speeches to parse out those answers.
Alabama is poised to launch the state's largest road and bridge improvement program ever.
The private, bipartisan-led effort is "dedicated to bringing about a new era of U.S. investment in infrastructure to raise awareness and funding of public infrastructure."
(The group is the same one that rolled out the "I'm Stuck" Mobile App last summer, to allow motorists and passengers trapped by traffic and faulty equipment directly send an earful to the appropriate elected official.)
Now, the organization has created a webpage to serve as a one-stop-shop for any infrastructure-related mentions at the state level.
Here's BASEF's view as of Jan. 16, 2014. Each governor's full address is available by clicking on his name below.
Alabama: Attracting Jobs
Gov. Robert Bentley (R) considers a well-functioning transportation network a key to attracting new businesses to his state, according to BAFEF.
“Each of Alabama’s 67 counties has been given the opportunity to recruit more jobs, thanks to the largest road and bridge improvement program ever conducted in the state," the governor said Jan. 14. "When companies look for places to build, expand and hire more people, they look for places that have good infrastructure."
Colorado: Private Partners
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said Jan. 9 that he understood the value of partnering with the private sector to deliver needed infrastructure.
“Economic development demands infrastructure," Hickenlooper said. "We will propose the formation of a non-profit enterprise dedicated to fostering public-private partnerships to fund infrastructure projects such as transportation and water.
"This will not only bolster economic development; it will also lighten the burden on taxpayers and harness minds and resources outside of government to address unmet needs and keep Colorado competitive.”
Georgia: Moving Dirt
Gov. Nathan Deal (R) said Jan. 15 that infrastructure investment was linked to job growth and economic development.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Plans to deepen the Port of Savannah, North America's largest container terminal, have been on the books since 1999, said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. "It's time to start moving dirt!"
“There are many ingredients in the recipe for job growth," he said. "I have already mentioned the importance of favorable tax policies. In addition, it requires adequate infrastructure so that people, as well as raw materials and finished products, can move freely within our state.
"This general assembly has already made changes to funding formulas so that interstate projects and freight corridors will be prioritized.
"In the budget I am submitting to you, I have included $35 million for the deepening of the Port of Savannah. If approved, we will have $266 million, which will represent Georgia’s share of this important project. I intend for us to start dredging this year!
"This was first authorized by Congress in 1999. Approximately 50 percent of the cost of this project has been approved by four separate federal agencies. We have studied and planned long enough. It’s time to start moving dirt!”
The Port of Savannah is the largest single container terminal in North America.
Idaho: Water Improvements
Gov. Butch Otter (R) said Jan. 6 that targeted infrastructure investments such as he has proposed for the sustainability of the water supply are key to his state’s greater long-term stability.
“My budget includes $15 million in one-time spending for specific water supply improvement projects from Mountain Home to Rathdrum and from Island Park to Arrowrock,” the governor said.
Indiana: Roads Mean Jobs
Gov. Mike Pence (R) told Indianans on Jan. 14 that he understood the link between smart infrastructure investments and jobs: “Because roads mean jobs, we need to release $400 million for the next era of highway expansion and put people to work now.”
Iowa: Broadband Vision
Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told constituents on Jan. 14 that in order to expand economic opportunity, 21st-century technologies must be widely accessible.
“Today I propose The Connect Every Iowan Act, with incentives to encourage access, adoption and use of broadband technology by business and individuals,” Branstad said.
“…..Together we can use broadband technology to grow the Iowa Dream throughout our state, especially in rural areas. As our connection speeds increase, so does the pace of our economic progress, so does our ability to grow jobs, and so does our ability to turn the Iowa Dream into reality.”
Kansas: Securing Water's Future
Gov. Sam Brownback (R) spoke Jan. 15 of the importance of having a safe and reliable water supply.
Gov. Sam Brownback is determined to develop a "comprehensive water strategy" for Kansas, plagued by recurrent flooding, including a 2007 bout that swamped a bridge near Independence, MO.
“If the three millionth Kansan is to stay and build a life here, then we must leave her a state with access to our lifeblood: water," Brownback said. "And we are expending the liquid capital of our state.
"As many of you came into this building tonight, you saw the words of our greatest Kansan, Dwight Eisenhower. Ike said, ‘The opportunist thinks of me and today. The statesman thinks of us and tomorrow.’
"It’s no coincidence that much of the water infrastructure we’re spending through today was built in Ike’s time. The fact is that from our reservoirs to our aquifers, we are relying on wise decisions made generations ago. Those who come after us deserve that same statesmanship.
"Throughout this year, people from across the state will gather to develop a comprehensive water strategy—a strategy to secure our water future for the next 50 years. Without water…there is no future.“
Kentucky: Building Bridges
Gov. Steve Beshear (D) vowed Jan. 7 to move forward with important bridge projects that will connect communities and create jobs.
“These bridge projects in both regions are strongly supported by their respective business communities because of the projects’ dual economic impacts," Beshear said. "Short term, they’ll create construction jobs; and long term, they’ll improve capacity by moving commerce and commuters for decades to come.”
New York: Rebuilding and Hardening
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) touched Jan. 8 on many aspects of infrastructure: from the importance of having a modern and reliable system to making structures more resilient.
New York's many infrastructure needs include continued repairs and fortification of New York City's subways flooded in October 2012 by Hurricane Sandy, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "We have to totally harden our transit system," Cuomo said.
“We have to rebuild our infrastructure, because we need a 21st-century infrastructure to build on," Cuomo said.
He added, “We have to totally harden our transit system. When we built the New York City transit system, we didn’t envision floods that could fill the subway system.”
Cuomo also announced plans to “repair and replace over 100 bridges in Upstate New York with new state-of-the-art bridges that are designed to maintain their structural integrity, given the flood that we’re dealing with.”
Rhode Island: Traffic Jam
Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) said Jan. 15 that traffic congestion harmed economic development and quality of life and that a robust transit system must be a key part of the state’s transportation network.
“Congestion and gridlock are becoming more commonplace throughout the state," he said. "Therefore I propose a $40 million bond to be placed on the November ballot.
"These funds will be used to undertake major enhancements and renovations to mass transit hub systems at key locations in our state. To facilitate this work, I have included $250,000 from the Rhode Island Capital Plan Fund for the preliminary design of this new hub strategy. As we all know, good mass transit will spur economic growth.”
South Dakota: Rainy Day Redirect
Speaking Jan. 14 of the benefits of smart infrastructure investments, Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) proposed a change to prioritize state contributions to the recently created Building South Dakota Fund. The fund uses infrastructure investment as a means to enhance economic development efforts.
"Under current law, budget surpluses are transferred into budget reserves as part of our rainy day funds at the end of the fiscal year," Daugaard said.
"I am proposing to change that in certain circumstances. Under my proposal, the first priority for surplus funds will be to keep our rainy day funds at 10 percent of the general fund appropriations for the year just ended. Once that is met, the second priority will be to automatically pre-fund Building South Dakota, so that the program is always funded at least one year in advance.”
Daugaard said Building South Dakota had "created some important new tools to aid our economic development efforts. Thanks to our favorable business climate, we have already seen many businesses expand and add jobs over the past three years.”
Virginia: Tracking Benefits
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said Jan. 13 that smart infrastructure investments must have quantifiable economic benefits, adding that “Virginia’s ability to compete economically is also shaped by the quality of our transportation system.”
The governor pledged to work with the Legislature to implement last year’s historic transportation bill by saying: “I will work to honor that achievement by spending every dollar wisely; and seek to deliver projects on time and on budget.”
Washington: Investment Needed
“If education is the heart of our economy, then transportation is the backbone," Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said Jan. 14.
Wikimedia Commons / Martha T
Washington State authorities are trying to avert the degradation of other bridges, in the wake of the 2013 collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River.
"That’s why we need a transportation investment package. If we do not act, our state will face a 52 percent decrease in the maintenance budget for bridges and roads in the next two years. If we do not act, 71 additional bridges will become structurally deficient.”
West Virginia: Eyes on the Roads
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) told West Virginians on Jan. 8 that smart infrastructure investments were the key to economic development.
“As we celebrate these new investments, there are other types of investments we often take for granted: investments in water and sewer infrastructure, schools, airports, rail, intermodal facilities, and broadband," he said. "Used by all of us, roads and bridges are one of the biggest investments and they come at a cost.
"This Legislature, in a bipartisan fashion, had the wisdom and foresight to enact two pieces of legislation last year that are already paying off for our State Road Fund. The continuation of Design-Build and Public-Private Partnerships is allowing the Division of Highways to be more innovative in the construction of our roads and bridges.”