Reporting Gary Nelson
Legislative Session Coverage
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – President Barack Obama was South Florida Friday hoping to rally support and convince Congress to make larger investments in the United States’ crumbling infrastructure.
President Obama made his way to PortMiami to discuss some of his specific proposals that will also try to draw more private sector investment in the nation’s infrastructure. PortMiami is undergoing a $2 billion upgrade funded by both public and private money, It’s Marquee element being a $1 billion tunnel connecting the port to the mainland.
Obama outlined a proposal that would use the Miami tunnel project as a model for the rest of the nation to improve infrastructure.
“New roads, new schools, new bridges, new ports, new tunnels that help you ship products made in America to the rest of the world as fast as possible,” Obama said to a cheering crowd.
Obama made private sector infrastructure investment a key part of his economic agenda in the first year of his second term.
Part of the reason Obama has had to focus on the private sector investment is that Congressional Republicans have threatened to block any additional stimulus-style spending. The White House claimed any additional spending would not increase the deficit, but didn’t detail how the costs would be offset.
Obama called for proposals Friday including:
- Higher caps on “private activity bonds” to encourage the private sector to spend more on highway projects and other infrastructure needs. State and local governments use the bonds to attract investment.
- Giving foreign pension funds tax-exempt status when selling U.S. infrastructure, property or real estate assets. U.S. pension funds are generally tax exempt under such circumstances. The administration says some international pension funds cite the tax burden as a reason for not investing in American infrastructure.
- $4 billion in new spending on two infrastructure programs that award loans and grants.
- A renewed call for a $10 billion national “infrastructure bank” — a proposal from his first term that gained little traction.
“There is work to be done, workers who are ready to do it, let’s prove to the world there is no better place to do business than in America and get started rebuilding America,” The president said.
Detractors applauded the Miami tunnel project, but said the best way to build the economy is for government to unburden business from taxes and unnecessary red tape.
“We need private enterprise, totally private enterprise to be the backbone again of the American economy,” said Congresswoman Ileana Ross-Lehtinen, a Miami-Dade Republican.
Pres. Obama cautioned against partisanship, saying “congress will ultimately have to find the funds for these projects.”
Democrats worried about what they call a just say no opposition.
“We are seeing our economy come back, we’re seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel, and these guys want to pull us back into the darkness,” Said Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia of Miami Dade.
Pres. Obama said he believes his proposal for public private partnerships is one that can be agreed to by both sides in Congress.
“Let’s get this done. Let’s rebuild this country we love,” the president said
The president’s next budget blueprint will be released on April 10. Typically, budgets are released in February, but the White House claimed the focus on the fiscal cliff and sequestration has delayed the economic blueprint’s release.
Watch President Obama’s speech in its entirety below:
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