No matter where I'm meeting with Kentuckians, whether it's in Pikeville, Paducah, or my office in Washington, D.C., the issue of infrastructure is always a top concern. Just last month, as I made my way to those cities and dozens more, I heard about many projects in desperate need of funding and was asked how I can help.
If government worked the way it was supposed to, perhaps we would be able to fund more of these projects. See, your government has a budget. The problem is no one can stick to it. So when important things that need funding come up, like repairing our bridges and roads, Congress is faced with either spending more money it doesn't have or not funding the projects at all.
Isn't it mind-boggling that everyday Americans can balance their checkbooks and cut less-important spending items in order to fund much more dire needs, yet Congress can't find the will to do the same with your tax dollars?
I know how important these infrastructure projects are, and I want to ensure Kentucky isn't hurt or left behind by a Congress who can't figure out how to put our communities' needs first. Kentucky shouldn't suffer because Washington is unwilling to cut less-important spending.
That's why I have a plan to fix it. This month, I introduced my "Penny Plan to Enhance Infrastructure Act of 2019," which will help prioritize funding for our communities' critical infrastructure projects. My bill instructs the federal government to cut just 1 percent from all of its non-infrastructure discretionary spending and direct that money to infrastructure.
Spending would be directed toward things such as Highway Infrastructure Programs; airport and airway improvement; railroad infrastructure; waterway improvements, including port infrastructure; military construction; safe and clean drinking water; and rural utility services.
My bill would provide $12.3 billion for 2020 for new infrastructure spending, and it doesn't touch Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.
Based on some estimates, this new funding alone could pay for between 2,500 and 6,200 miles of new four-lane highways, 2,200 miles of six-lane interstates, or resurface nearly 20,000 miles of existing four-lane roads.
Here in this area of Kentucky, the Army Corps of Engineers is working on a much-needed lock expansion at the Kentucky Lock on the Tennessee River. The river industry is responsible for moving more than 50 million tons of product up and down the Tennessee River every year, including coal, equipment, agriculture products, aggregates, chemicals, and more.
Having efficient and modern locks to ensure that these goods are free to move along the inland waterways system is important to commerce, trade, and national security. The rivers of Kentucky are just as important as the highways and bridges, and funding projects of this nature should also be a priority when we consider infrastructure spending.
With my plan, Congress doesn't have to fall victim to the politically charged battle of picking where to find these funds, because every single program is subject to the same directive: setting just one penny per dollar aside to fund our communities' most dire infrastructure needs.
This isn't a partisan issue. Regardless of party affiliation, I think most people want better, safer roads. They want infrastructure capable of supporting our growing cities.
If you want these things, too, I urge you to support my plan. Call your legislators and let them know you want your tax dollars spent on projects and initiatives that are crucial to the foundation of your community, not on wasteful programs or sent overseas. Tell them you want just one penny per dollar of government spending to be used solely for infrastructure.
When I ran for office, I promised to always put Kentucky first, and by prioritizing the commonwealth's most important needs, my "Penny Plan to Enhance Infrastructure Act" is yet another way I'm keeping that promise.
Just because Congress is paralyzed when it comes to budgeting doesn't mean Kentuckians should pay the price.