When President Biden unveiled his infrastructure plan on March 31, it provided something for everyone, including land surveyors. But the expanse of the “American Jobs Plan” may be its Achilles’ heel.
The sweeping $2 trillion+ infrastructure and jobs package looks to reshape the American economy and make the most significant domestic investments in generations. The proposal, which will become legislation as it moves through Congress, includes the following traditional infrastructure investments, all of which create a demand and opportunities for surveyors in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of infrastructure projects:
- $213 billion for homes and commercial buildings
- $175 billion for Electric Vehicles (EV)
- $115 billion for roads and bridges
- $112 billion for schools
- $111 billion for water infrastructure
- $100 billion for broadband
- $100 billion for power infrastructure
- $85 billion for public transit
- $50 billion included for FEMA's Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC)
- $25 billion for airports
- $18 billion for Veterans Affairs hospitals and facilities
- $17 billion for inland waterways and coastal ports
- $10 billion for Federal buildings
- $5 billion for real property/EPA Superfund
Also included is $100 billion for workforce development, which may assist in attracting the next generation of land surveying professionals and technicians.
But critics of the proposal point out it goes far beyond physical infrastructure as it looks to build the nation’s clean energy workforce, expand manufacturing, and boost caregiving as a profession to serve the elderly and disabled and other social programs. The latter are part of what the President’s National Economic Council Director Brian Deese has called “the infrastructure of care.”
“President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion proposal is more like a 21st century New Deal, going well beyond bridges, airports and broadband to fund everything from Medicaid for home health care workers to studying racial barriers in climate change. The plan is audacious, but also reads like a liberal wish list for everything the left has wanted for the past decade and has already come under withering criticism from Republicans as a socialist dream,” said Martin Kady II, editorial director of Politico Pro, a respected nonpartisan Washington, DC, newsletter.
Another controversy is the cost of the Biden proposal. John Gizzi, chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax, reports that Wall Street analysts believe the price tag touted by the White House, $2.25 trillion, falls more than $1 trillion short. Moreover, the Biden proposal seeks to increase taxes, including a hike in the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent making it one of the highest in the world. Many analysts believe that will drive more manufacturing off-shore to countries with lower rates.
The financing portion of the White House plan does not fully pay for the entire proposal and with the national debt already at $28 billion, including $7.8 billion added under President Trump and the American Rescue Plan Act passed earlier this year to include COVID response contributing another $1.9 trillion, the fiscal impact of the proposal is raising eyebrows of many conservatives.
Congress today is younger, more tech-savvy, and more familiar with location-based technology, including surveying, mapping, and geospatial services, data, technology, and applications. More than ever before, members of Congress are introducing a wide array of legislation that includes geospatial provisions. These include proposals for clean energy, climate change, environmental justice, broadband, use of public lands, flood and disaster mitigation, coastal protection, smart cities, next generation 911, critical minerals and materials, and police reform, among others. There is a greater recognition of the importance of surveying, mapping, and geospatial data to the successful implementation of government programs than ever before.
How broad or narrow the final infrastructure bill will be, what the process will be — reconciliation or traditional authorization — and what may pass Congress in separate, standalone legislation will be the subject of high-level negotiations in Washington in the weeks and months to come.