Cantwell: Investing In Infrastructure Is Key To Maintaining And Growing Our Economy

Cantwell Slams Trump’s Budget Proposal In New Letter, Highlights Congress’ Failure to Adequately Fund Maintenance Needs of the National Park Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) blasted President Trump’s budget proposal during a committee hearing on public lands infrastructure.

“Investing in infrastructure is key to maintaining and growing our economy. I thought President Trump, Republicans and Democrats all agree on that. But we need a budget proposal that can help us do that,” Sen. Cantwell said. “It is ironic that we are gathered to discuss infrastructure funding after having just received a budget that essentially abandons that entire concept.”

Referring to the Secure Rural Schools and PILT programs, Sen. Cantwell said, “We cannot claim to be saving money for an infrastructure package by taking away from the infrastructure funding of states. Whether it’s counties that are working to maintain or improve their schools or doing roadwork in rural communities, we need to work together to resolve these problems.”

Sen. Cantwell made the case that investing in outdoor and recreation infrastructure is one of the most effective ways to grow the economy. Outdoor recreationists made more than 938 million visits to federal lands, spending $51 billion and supporting 880,000 jobs—not including visits to private or state lands. The outdoor recreation economy spurs $646 billion in spending each year in the United States, yielding $40 billion in federal taxes and $40 billion state and local taxes.

Recreation in national parks helps support nearly 300,000 jobs. Park visitors spent an estimated $16.9 billion in gateway communities last year. In fact, recreation in national forests provides 194,000 jobs—or 40 percent of the national forests’ contribution to the GDP.

It is well known that the Park Service’s total deferred maintenance backlog is billions of dollars—nearly $12 billion. “This figure reflects the failure of Congress to budget in a manner to keep pace with infrastructure needs,” Sen. Cantwell said. “With the 12 percent budget cut proposed by the Trump administration, the National Park Service and other land management agencies will likely to fall further behind in maintenance.”

Sen. Cantwell also discussed the importance of investing in water infrastructure, highlighting collaborative planning processes that take integrated approaches, like the plan in the Yakima basin in Washington. Last Congress, Sen. Cantwell championed a bill to authorize the first part of that plan, which will improve water security, fisheries and water conservation. Sen. Cantwell plans to re-introduce that legislation this year.