WASHINGTON (WFLA) – U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg answered questions about the American Jobs Plan this week, speaking about the different scoring listed for each state’s infrastructure needs.
The White House released a series of fact sheets on April 12 that gave an infrastructure grade for all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The sheets are part of its planning notes with a proposed national budget targeting specific infrastructure needs for each main section.
The American Jobs Plan infrastructure report cards covered the following infrastructure topics for each state:
- Roads and Bridges
- Public Transportation
- Resilient Infrastructure
- Drinking Water
- Child Care
- Home Energy
- Clean Energy Jobs
- Veterans Health
The report cards go state-by-state and detail specific costs to correct infrastructure deficiencies. They also list how much the AJP will invest nationally to correct the issues. While the proposed national investment amounts were given, the investments on a state-by-state basis were not provided in the published report cards.
Florida scored a “C” on its infrastructure report card, based on what the White House calls a systemic lack of investment. No state scored higher than a “C+” and 13 states did not receive a letter grade in their report cards. Those states are Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming.
In an April 12 press call, Buttigieg discussed the goals of the AJP, focusing on the goals of the proposed legislation and how the funding needs could be allocated state by state. During the press call, Buttigieg focused on the opportunities the American Jobs Plan will create, and what that means for the U.S.
“I want to emphasize the excitement that this American Jobs Plan represents for the future of infrastructure of this country,” said Buttigieg. “This is about making sure that America is number one, in a highly competitive way, creating jobs in every part of the country.”
Buttigieg, who was joined by Deputy Director Bharat Ramamurti of the White House National Economic Council, gave some details on how funding for the AJP would be distributed. Essentially, there are three ways Buttigieg and Ramamurti mentioned as possible ways to get funding for infrastructure improvements, should the plan pass in Congress.
Buttigieg and Ramamurti said the way funds will be distributed will be through a mix of competitive grants and support for discretionary programs to meet certain policy goals. Congress may also choose to use what they called a formula allocation for needs on a state-by-state basis.
Both said that collaboration between state governments and the federal government is a goal moving forward.
“We really view these federal investments as going hand-in-hand” with state efforts to “step up,” said Buttigieg.
Buttigieg, when asked about how the process will function once implemented, said that at this point, they’re working to make sure the most people are helped in the most transparent way. Still, both Buttigieg and Ramamurti said policy design will vary.
“This is one of the areas where the scale of the vision really helps. We’re talking about $620 billion on transportation projects. You can do the math and see that any individual community and even the states stand to benefit in a really big way. The best and cleanest way to go about this process is to be clear about our expectations and standards,” said Buttigieg.
While an infrastructure boost is a priority for the Biden administration, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has also proposed infrastructure improvements across the state, proposing $4.1 billion in spending on a variety of programs. Work to address various infrastructure needs is going through the Florida Legislature, too.
Housing affordability is a big focus for the Biden Administration, with $200 billion of proposed investment from the American Jobs Plan aimed at solving housing issues, if the legislation passes. As an example of state and federal cooperation, affordable housing investments would partially operate through housing funds at a federal level that distribute funding based on a formula. Buttigieg said that the president has also encouraged competitive funding programs where states and local governments can apply for flexible funding.
Affordable housing has also been a focus for Florida lawmakers during the current legislative session. The Sadowski Fund, a state and local housing trust fund, received a proposed increase in the state budget rather than two previously planned cuts. Now the Sadowski Fund will be raised to $200 million, rather than remain at the current $140 million, if the budget proposed in SB 2512 is passed, adding $60 million to the fund for the next fiscal year.
The planned budget from SB 2512 also has sections aimed at improvements to transportation infrastructure, wastewater treatment and handling issues owed to rising sea levels, among others.
The funds that were to be removed from the State Housing Trust Fund in previous budget plans would have been partially used to pay for wastewater treatment as well as going into the state’s General Revenue Fund. The Florida Leads FY21-22 budget plan also focuses on disaster recovery and rural development, a focus also shared by Biden’s AJP.
The White House report cards did not include where the data was sourced from in the publications themselves. 8 On Your Side has reached out to the White House for clarification on the sources for some of the data, as well as details for proposed investments in Florida’s infrastructure.