The American Jobs Act (the Act) put forth by President Obama calls for increased infrastructure spending in an attempt to lift economic growth across the U.S. With North Carolina facing an unemployment rate of 10.4 percent, far above the national average, there is a vital need for bold, effective job creation efforts to kick-start the state’s flagging recovery.
Even as the jobs crisis continues, there is an urgent need to improve our nation’s public infrastructure. The Act would invest $30 billion for modernization and renovation of public schools and community colleges and $50 billion to repair the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, airports, and railways. The Act would be funded as a part of the President’s long-term deficit reduction plan.
According to White House estimates, North Carolina could receive more than $1.6 billion for infrastructure investment:
- $675.7 million for public school infrastructure funding to support as many as 8,800 jobs
- $163.1 million for facilities modernization needs at community colleges
- $797.9 million in transportation spending, corresponding to 10,400 or more local jobs
Analysts conservatively estimate that the backlog of maintenance and repair for school buildings is least $270 billion nationwide. Moreover, of North Carolina’s 13,531 bridges, the Department of Transportation lists 2,696 bridges as structurally deficient and 2,407 bridges as functionally obsolete. Deteriorating schools put children at risk of safety and health problems and crumbling transportation infrastructure leads to congested roadways and increased vehicle repair costs while harming the state and national economy.
Whether now or later, aging public schools and structures must be repaired. In many cases, pushing needed repairs into the future would needlessly increase costs as more heavily degraded roadways and schools cost more to repair than those only in need of minor repairs. Record-low interest rates on federal treasuries make now an especially cost-effective time to borrow and invest in infrastructure. Moreover, the unemployment rate in the construction sector—13.4 percent—has been in the double-digits for nearly three years. The Act would get construction workers off the sidelines and put them to work while getting a nice return on investment leading to better long-term economic growth and competitiveness.
More and more families across North Carolina are struggling to make ends meet, as reported by the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center last week. Increased investment in infrastructure would create much-needed jobs and pump more money in the pockets of North Carolinians. The paychecks would ease economic hardship and likely be spent quickly and locally, thereby boosting local economies across the state.
President Obama is correct that this Act is critical to maintaining America’s competitiveness. Inadequate public schools and transportation undermines guarantees of equal employment opportunities in the short and long term. Building 21st Century schools, mass transit and other public works are investments that can connect communities and produce broadly shared benefits.