On PBS’ NewsHour, Portman Discusses Ongoing Infrastructure Negotiations & State of the U.S. Economy
This evening on PBS’ NewsHour, Senator Portman discussed President Biden’s $2.7 trillion infrastructure plan and the negative implications of the massive tax hikes it imposes. Portman noted that he supports improving America’s aging roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure, but that more than $2 trillion of President Biden’s proposal funds policy priorities that are a far cry from what has ever been considered infrastructure.
Furthermore, Portman addressed the negative impact of President Biden’s proposed tax hikes, which would raise the combined federal and state corporate tax rate from 25.8 percent — already above the average rate of 23.4 percent for other developed countries — to 32.8 percent, the highest rate in the developed world.
A transcript of his remarks is below and a video can be found here:
PORTMAN ON BIDEN ADMINISTRATION’S MASSIVE SPENDING PLAN
“When President Biden talks about raising taxes at a time when the economy is coming out of this COVID-19 recovery, it concerns me greatly. When he talks about more spending, $6 trillion of more spending now, when you add everything up, that concerns me greatly. So we’ve got just huge differences on policy. We have to focus on those. This infrastructure package, I know you want to talk about today, when you look at it, Judy, it is hard to call it infrastructure. Even the most generous description of infrastructure, which would include broadband, let’s say water infrastructure, and the electric grid, would only amount to about 20 percent of what he wants to spend money on. A lot of it is other worthy causes like nursing home spending or spending on health care generally. It’s spending for electric car companies and so on. But that’s not infrastructure by any definition. So if we could focus on the infrastructure part, which is about 20 percent of what he’s talking about, roads and bridges are about five or six percent of it, and then talk about the pay-fors for that which I think are out there, I think we can get something done here. I’m very optimistic about it and my hope is that the meetings this week at the White House will be productive.”
PORTMAN ON BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE TALKS
“Well, here’s what I think. I think about $600 billion is about where Republicans are going to end up. The proposal is about $568 billion. That includes all forms of traditional infrastructure plus, because it includes things like broadband and so on. The president may be at about $900 billion as I understand it, when you look at an apples-to-apples comparison, number of years and so on. We are far apart in the sense of $300 billion is a lot of money, but not very far apart as compared to what many are reporting which is that his proposal is $2.3 trillion and ours is $500 billion some. The fact is that most of that is not infrastructure. If we focus on infrastructure we can get it done. Raising taxes is not the right thing to do. There are other ways to pay for infrastructure, as you know. User fees have traditionally been used, that makes a lot of sense, but also using things that we currently do use, like using the ability of the government to borrow at lower rates and then to be able to get the private sector engaged or the local communities engaged. The funding right now that is used for roads and bridges is often that kind of funding. People talked about an infrastructure bank, which I support, which is essentially that same methodology. So there are ways to find the funding for infrastructure that are different in that it’s a long-term capital expense, as compared to, say, a programmatic expense. There is a way to get there.”
PORTMAN ON GETTING THE ECONOMY BACK ON TRACK
“Well, we have a more recent example, Judy don’t we, which is the 2017 tax reforms and tax cuts, which resulted in this incredible economy prior to the COVID-19 crisis. In February of last year, just before COVID-19 hit, we had 19 straight months of wage growth of three percent or more. Most of that wage growth was among low and middle-income workers. We had the lowest poverty in the history of our country going back to the 1950’s. We had historically low unemployment for a number of groups including Asian Americans, Blacks, Hispanics. We also had a situation where the economy was growing overall, but it was an inclusive economy. I would think that is what everybody would want, to have more people coming in off the sidelines. The idea of going back and raising those taxes now that proved to be making us more competitive would be a mistake. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said when we reduced the taxes that President Biden would now like to increase, that 70 percent of that benefit was going into workers’ pockets. Benefits and salaries and wages for workers is where the benefit was found and that’s why you had this wage growth which was so impressive. And we hadn’t had it for a couple of decades so we need to be very careful to raise taxes right now. There are other ways to pay for it.”
“We should definitely look at those issues and we should also reopen our schools, Judy, because one of the things that all the data shows is that you’re right – more women are not going back to the workforce and when you dig deeper part of it is that not all the schools have reopened. That is something that should and can be solved relatively quickly. I agree that with regard to childcare we need to come up with better ways to reduce the costs and also with regards to family medical leave. So I think there’s some opportunities here. My point is that if you are going to focus on infrastructure, let’s focus on the actual hard assets that are always considered to be infrastructure, and let’s come up with ways to pay for those that are something that has always been done on a bipartisan basis. The user fees I’m talking about includes the Highway Trust Fund, which would support over $200 billion of this just by the existing gas tax. Why should electric vehicles not be subject to some sort of charge to use our highways? I have a hybrid vehicle, I should be charged for using roads and bridges just as people who have gasoline engines. I think there is a way to do this without hurting working families but also providing the funding for this long-term infrastructure, which is a good long-term investment for our country.”