America's state legislatures are on the front lines of governance; when the federal government holds back on infrastructure, state legislators must explain to constituents why their bridges need repair and why local businesses struggle to ship raw materials in and finished goods out to world markets.
So when I spoke to the leaders of the National Conference of State Legislatures last week, they wanted to know what kind of support they could expect from the Obama Administration and Congress to help their residents get where they need to go safely and conveniently--and to help their states' businesses remain competitive in the global economy.
Like President Obama, our state legislatures understand that their economic competition isn't coming from the state next door, but from countries and international businesses around the world. They know that, if we want America to continue to lead—to be a magnet for jobs and manufacturing—we must work together to invest in our infrastructure.
And that's why, in his State of the Union address, President Obama put forth a plan to rebuild and upgrade our infrastructure so our businesses have the tools they need to compete.
The President’s plan includes a “fix-it-first” policy to ensure that repair and maintenance of our existing roads, bridges and public transportation systems take priority. It also includes a “Rebuild America” Partnership to attract private capital to build the infrastructure our states' businesses need most.
Right now, we have an opportunity to think big and be bold--as the generation that came before us did, and as the generations that came before them did.
Now is the time to invest in modern public transportation like bus rapid transit and streetcars—as we've done in cities like New Orleans, Charlotte, and Tucson where we’ve seen new businesses open up their doors and new residents move into housing near transit access.
Now is not the time to cut back on air traffic control, but to boost it with investments in NextGen for safety, efficiency, and sustainability.
President Obama’s plan for our nation's infrastructure looks forward by building on the legacy of previous generations to create a legacy for the next generation. Our country's state legislatures know it is exactly the kind of vision we need for a 21st century America.