Rep. Nick J. Rahall
Recently, I had the honor and privilege of being sworn-in for my 19th term in the U.S. House of Representatives serving the people of southern West Virginia.
I look forward to the new Congress with excitement and enthusiasm and also with the hope that the 113th Congress will do better than its predecessor in putting the good of the country above partisan politics.
Too many times, the last Congress allowed itself to become bogged down in frustrating legislative gridlock. Historically noncontroversial measures that were essential to the economic well-being of our nation became victims of partisan stunts and bickering that forced the Congress to lurch from one self-concocted crisis to another, hurting job growth and eroding the American people’s faith in their government. This must not be allowed to become the norm in the new Congress.
On the many issues crying out for Congressional action, there’s no reason why the Congress cannot reach an agreement and get its job done. And, without question, the task that requires the full attention of the Congress is job creation.
As the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I know well how much investment in highway and infrastructure building and improvements can buoy a listless economy. Now is the time to address the needs of our aging roads and bridges, water and wastewater treatment systems. They are tried and true tonics for ailing economies and proven job producers.
Infrastructure initiatives, in West Virginia and throughout the country, can help bridge the divide between the two parties and provide a roadmap to get America moving again.
For every $1 billion in transportation investments, our nation sustains or creates nearly 35,000 jobs. Every dollar spent on road, highway, and bridge improvements returns an average benefit of $5.20 by reducing delays, vehicle maintenance costs, fuel consumption, road and bridge maintenance costs, and emissions, as well as improving safety — all as a result of improved traffic flow.
Our state has major highway projects to complete, such as Routes 2, 10, and 35, the I-73/74 Tolsia/King Coal Highway, the Coalfields Expressway, and the Z-Way, to name a few. We have important transit intermodal facilities to complete in Beckley and Bluefield and Prichard. Our airports have plans for growth, and, with game changers like the Boy Scouts of America taking root here, having the infrastructure in place to meet growing demand is a basic necessity.
With the new Congress preparing to continue the budgetary battles of the previous Congress, we must find a way to reduce our nation’s deficits while still protecting the vital investments and services that West Virginians rightly expect from their government.
Certainly, we should eliminate wasteful spending where we can, and I have voted for some painful spending cuts, including last year’s Budget Control Act that cut spending by $1 trillion.
And we also must look at costly tax breaks for the wealthy that are simply unaffordable and serve limited benefit for working class families and small businesses.
However, the surest way to bring the budget into balance is by growing the economy. We must continue to invest in our nation’s physical infrastructure, as well as our labor force by expanding access to job training and affordable education and health care.
In West Virginia, we know very well how important a skilled labor force, safer roads and modern infrastructure are to attracting and growing businesses. It is a sound recipe for economic growth and job creation and it can serve our state and nation well in the years ahead.
(Rahall represents West Virginia’s 3rd District.)