Federal infrastructure investments will magnify local efforts

The Utah State Legislature has worked hard to prioritize infrastructure investments all across Utah. We are doing this to improve our roads, update our passenger rail system, and fund transportation projects creating jobs, spurring economic development, and improving the quality of life for all Utahns.

As Assistant Majority Whip for the Utah State Senate, I am proud of the work that our legislature has done. Earlier this year, I sponsored H.B. 433 specifically to ensure tax dollars were used for critical infrastructure needs like addressing our state’s growing transportation, transit, and energy needs. I also wanted to ensure any future spending in Utah by the federal government is done in a way that both supplements and leverages results from our existing state spending.  

Utah will soon receive nearly $1.6 Billion from the federal government under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). While I have publicly expressed concerns with Congress’ overall spending amounts under ARPA, I firmly believe that any future federal spending in Utah should be carefully targeted in a way that maximizes results from our existing state expenditures. For example, it should specifically address problems associated with high growth, rather than merely fund additional social programs that are unrelated to our infrastructure needs. Any federal bill, like H.B. 433, should also be forward-thinking, comprehensive, and bipartisan. I would hope that Senator Mitt Romney would be among those leading the charge to champion bold, broad infrastructure investments—including in clean energy and emerging energy technologies—that will complement our existing efforts here in Utah.  

H.B. 433 will help advance a number of infrastructure priorities, such as funding new road projects, double-tracking our passenger rail system, relieving traffic gridlock in our high tourist areas, and maintaining construction levels through 2024. These efforts will go a long way towards creating local jobs and supporting local economies while still ensuring Utah’s entire infrastructure system is well-positioned for continued growth and development in the future.

If federal spending is carefully targeted, it could amplify our efforts and magnify the positive economic impact on Utah communities. Investing in infrastructure can also help spur American innovation, particularly when it comes to developing our energy resources to provide cleaner and more affordable power. Maintaining an all-of-the-above approach to energy that includes traditional and newer sources will help keep costs down for consumers while ensuring long-term reliability.

Utah is fortunate to be blessed with an abundance of natural resources like crude oil, natural gas, and coal. We also are increasingly tapping into our renewable energy resources like wind and solar power. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, roughly 14 percent of our total electricity generation was derived from renewables last year. Since 2015, 97 percent of new electric generating capacity came from solar energy.

National infrastructure investments should likewise be made with an eye toward continuing to develop these renewable resources while also investing in emerging energy technologies, from clean-burning natural gas and advanced nuclear to carbon capture and energy storage. Ultimately, this is all part of the same comprehensive strategy that we need to meet our current and future energy needs in a responsible, sustainable, and pro-growth way.

Moreover, these investments in infrastructure and clean energy will help strengthen and stabilize local economies by creating 21st Century jobs for Utah’s workforce, which is particularly important given everything Utah has been through this past year. Now is the time to invest in a stronger, more resilient economy here in Utah and throughout the nation—and infrastructure investments are one way of doing that.

When all is said and done, our legislative efforts in Utah to improve our infrastructure and advance clean energy will only take us so far. That’s why Congress should pass a comprehensive, bipartisan infrastructure spending bill that will specifically reinforce our efforts here in Utah to create much-needed jobs and strengthen our economy. 

Senator Romney, as well as his colleagues, should take a page out of the Utah State Legislature’s playbook, making sure that Washington prioritizes infrastructure investment as we have here in Utah.  

Senator Kirk Cullimore is the Majority Assistant Whip in the Utah State Senate, representing Utah’s 9th District.