BMJ Stone
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February 4, 2009 3:55 PM CST

Importance of Infrastructure


As Congress turns its attention to an economic stimulus package, it is important to focus on improving our nation's infrastructure. Modernizing our infrastructure will help keep America competitive, create thousands of jobs while stimulating the economy, and improve the lives of all citizens.

I have always been a supporter of improving our transportation infrastructure network of roads and bridges, as well as our nation's schools and health care facilities. I am confident that the stimulus bill will address these needs. I am leading efforts to work with Senate Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell to include specific infrastructure funding for community health centers and new facilities at universities and community colleges. This infrastructure is desperately needed to train health professionals and increase capacity to serve our communities.

Health infrastructure is a compounded investment. The resulting facilities create sustainable, long-lasting jobs and will expand access to health care, while opening new opportunities for career development. In stimulating the U.S. economy, it is critical to include funding that invests in our nation's community health centers and health professions training programs to support Americans as they seek health services and job training opportunities in these tough economic times.

Congress has a unique opportunity to launch a new era of public works programs that can stimulate the economy and propel American competitiveness forward. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that every $1 billion in federal infrastructure spending could create more than 40,000 new jobs. Such an investment in these shovel-ready capital projects will not only have an immediate job creation impact in local economies and open up new career opportunities for displaced workers, it also will save valuable health care dollars by improving access to care.

However, this is just the first of many serious issues Congress faces beginning in 2009. The key issues I will be following include discussions on America's energy future. While the price of oil may be low right now, we can no longer afford to rely so completely on oil for our transportation energy needs. The security risk is too high for us to remain at the mercy of OPEC and other foreign oil producers. Congress must pursue a comprehensive approach to our national energy policy that balances domestic energy production with investment in and development of new energy sources and efficient technologies.

In the current economy, we must look for ways to reduce the burden on each of our citizens. I am encouraged to see that the most recent version of President-elect Obama's stimulus plan includes immediate tax cuts for individuals and couples as well as businesses. This is truly a direct and fast-acting solution to our economic woes.

I also hope that Congress looks at our current tax policies and can work to achieve a simpler tax policy for individuals and businesses that encourage entrepreneurism, investment and job creation, as this is the backbone of the American economy. Congress must also find a permanent solution to the estate tax. I support a full and permanent repeal of this onerous tax; however, given that there are not enough votes in the Senate to achieve this goal, I look forward to working with my colleagues to enact meaningful, permanent reform.

About the Author

Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) is a Democratic Senator from Nebraska.


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