U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley continues to defend his “yes” vote on the trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill, citing the needs to build out broadband, upgrade roads and bridges and the broad support for the spending from Iowa agriculture, business and local government.
Grassley was one of just 19 Republican senators and the only Republican in Iowa’s congressional delegation to back the package.
From the time former President Donald Trump proposed a four-year, $2 trillion infrastructure package, Grassley said he “heard from various people — a lot of people — who were asking when we were going to get the infrastructure bill done.”
“We didn’t get it done,” he told reporters Wednesday.
So when the Biden administration proposed an infrastructure package for half that much spread over eight years, “I voted for it because of what I’d been hearing from Iowans.”
Those Iowans included corn, soybean, pork and cattle commodity groups, agricultural retailers, airport operators, truckers, chambers of commerce from Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Waterloo, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Dubuque and others, the Iowa League of Cities and Iowa State Association of Counties.
While there were many reasons to support the bipartisan infrastructure package, one of the keys was a minimum of $100 million for broadband, Grassley said. He wants to make sure those funds are used in unserved and underserved areas of Iowa.
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The broadband funds, he said, are on top of existing funds — from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Communications Commission. Regardless of the source, “I’m going to want to make sure that the money doesn’t go to places where they have good services already.”
Another key was the $3.4 billion for highways and an additional $431 million to help rebuild the 23 percent of Iowa’s bridges that are structurally deficient.
“That means they are unsafe or a little unsafe,” he said, “and I’ve been hearing from county supervisors and the Iowa Department of Transportation how bad we are. We are the worst of the 50 states.”
He also pointed out that much of the funding in the bipartisan infrastructure package would have been appropriated through the motor fuel tax formula.
“Even without the bill, we would be spending half of that normally” based on the formula in place since the development of the interstate highways system, Grassley said.
Other highlights of the bill for Iowa are $638 million to upgrade water lines and replace lead pipes, $305 million over five years to improve public transportation and $120 million for airport modernization.
The bipartisan infrastructure package is a “significant investment in Iowa’s future,” Grassley said.
“I hope I’m representing the people and the needs of Iowans by the ‘yes’ vote,” he said. “The bottom line is that I’m going to make sure Iowans reap the benefits of this infrastructure investment.”