If You Build It: A Guide to the Economics of Infrastructure Investment

If You Build It: A Guide to the Economics of Infrastructure Investment. Brookings Institution. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Ryan Nunn, and Greg Nantz. February 7, 2017

A founding principle of The Hamilton Project’s economic strategy is that long-term prosperity is best achieved by fostering economic growth and broad participation in that growth. In that spirit, this paper seeks to provide an economic framework for evaluating infrastructure investments and their methods of funding and finance. Why should we invest in infrastructure, what projects should be selected, who should decide, and how should those investments be paid for are all questions that can be better answered with the help of sound economic theory and evidence. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 12 pages, 509.79 KB].

Delivering on Sustainable Infrastructure for Better Development and Better Climate

Delivering on Sustainable Infrastructure for Better Development and Better Climate. Brookings Institution. Amar Bhattacharya et al. December 23, 2016

2015 was a milestone year in which the world set clear and ambitious objectives through the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis in July; the UN Summit in September that adopted the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 development agenda; and the COP21 in Paris in December that resulted in the milestone climate agreement. The three central challenges now facing the global community, as crystallized in 2015, are to reignite global growth, deliver on the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and invest in the future of the planet through strong climate action. At the heart of this new global agenda is the imperative to invest in sustainable infrastructure. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 160 pages, 5.62 MB].

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Robert S. Kirk, William J. Mallett. November 1, 2016

For many years, federal surface transportation programs were funded almost entirely from taxes on motor fuels deposited in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Although there has been some modification to the tax system, the tax rates, which are fixed in terms of cents per gallon, have not been increased at the federal level since 1993. Prior to the recession that began in 2007, annual increases in driving, with a concomitant increase in fuel use, were sufficient in most years to keep revenue rising steadily. This is no longer the case. Although vehicle miles traveled have recently surpassed prerecession levels, future increases in fuel economy standards are expected to reduce motor fuel consumption and therefore fuel tax revenue in the years ahead.
Congress has yet to address the surface transportation program’s fundamental revenue issues, and has given limited legislative consideration to raising fuel taxes in recent years. Instead, since 2008 Congress has financed the federal surface transportation program by supplementing fuel tax revenues with transfers from the U.S. Treasury general fund. The most recent reauthorization act, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act; P.L. 114-94), was enacted on December 4, 2015, and authorized spending on federal highway and public transportation programs through September 30, 2020. The act provided $70 billion in general fund transfers to the HTF to support the programs over the five-year life of the act. This use of general fund transfers to supplement the HTF will have been the de facto funding policy for 12 years when the FAST Act expires at the end of FY2020. The FAST Act did not address funding of surface transportation programs over the longer term. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections indicate that the HTF revenue shortfalls relative to spending will reemerge following expiration of the FAST Act.

[PDF format, 26 pages, 825.72 KB].

Infrastructure Issues and Options for the Next President

Infrastructure Issues and Options for the Next President. Brookings Institution. William A. Galston and Robert Puentes. October 13, 2016

U.S. infrastructure facilities are aging, overcrowded, under-maintained, and in desperate need of modernization. The World Economic Forum ranks the United States 12th in the world for overall quality of infrastructure and assigns particularly low marks for the quality of our roads, ports, railroads, air transport infrastructure, and electricity supply. It is abundantly clear that to be economically competitive in today’s world, adequate investment in infrastructure is critical. And yet, U.S. spending on infrastructure has declined over the past five decades. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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The First Responder Network (FirstNet) and Next-Generation Communications for Public Safety: Issues for Congress

The First Responder Network (FirstNet) and Next-Generation Communications for Public Safety: Issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Linda K. Moore. June 17, 2016.

Congress included provisions in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (P.L. 112–96) for planning, building, and managing a new, nationwide, broadband network for public safety communications, by creating the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). The act allocated 10 MHz of additional radio frequency spectrum to accommodate the new network and required that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assign a license to FirstNet, comprising the newly designated frequencies plus 10 MHz previously assigned to states by the FCC for public safety use. In addition, the act designated federal appropriations of over $7 billion for the network and other public safety needs. These funds are provided through new revenue from the auction of licenses to the commercial sector in other spectrum bands.

[PDF format, 29 pages, 988.86 KB].

Legislative Options for Financing Water Infrastructure

Legislative Options for Financing Water Infrastructure. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Claudia Copeland et al. June 1, 2016.

The report addresses several options considered by Congress to address the financing needs of local communities for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects and to decrease or close the gap between available funds and projected needs. Some of the options exist and are well established, but they are under discussion for expansion or modification. Other innovative policy options for water infrastructure have been proposed, especially to supplement or complement existing financing tools. Some are intended to provide robust, long–term revenue to support existing financing programs and mechanisms. Some are intended to encourage private participation in financing of drinking water and wastewater projects.

[PDF format, 25 pages, 893.48 KB].

Pay for Performance: A New Solution for Vulnerable Homeless Adults

Pay for Performance: A New Solution for Vulnerable Homeless Adults. American Enterprise Institute. Kevin C. Corinth. April 26, 2016.

An emerging consensus has formed among advocates, nonprofit organizations, and the federal government that we have discovered the best solution for vulnerable homeless adults—Housing First. While the Housing First model has rightly been celebrated for increasing housing stability among the most vulnerable, evidence for claims that it reduces homeless populations, saves money, and improves well-being is much weaker. According to the author, there’s a need for a new solution that builds on the success of Housing First in housing the most vulnerable but also pushes progress forward on other outcomes. I propose a “pay-for-performance” system that unconditionally accepts vulnerable individuals into medium-term or long-term supportive housing, but rather than mandate a specific service model, holds service providers accountable for performance: keeping people out of homelessness, minimizing costs, and improving well-being. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 10 pages, 283.6 KB].