By Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge)
From the world’s busiest airport to the fastest growing container port in America, Georgia leads the nation in moving people and goods. That didn’t happen by accident.
On the contrary, for generations, Georgians have invested in the infrastructure necessary to facilitate our forward momentum.
Recently, we have invested in deepening the Port of Savannah with a quarter of a billion dollars in state funding. We have also modernized our funding for roads and bridges through the Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HB 170).
We have planned prudently and invested wisely, but we still have more work to do. And, for the first time in many decades, we have an ally in Washington, D.C.
I was invited to represent Georgia at the White House last month as President Trump unveiled his infrastructure framework. Titled “Building a Stronger America,” the President’s plan builds on his strength as a builder. He is someone who spent his life creating and expanding economic opportunity for others.
His plan calls for $200 billion in new federal infrastructure funding to generate $1.5 trillion in investments working with state and local governments as well as the private sector.
Aside from the dollar amount, there are three key points to President Trump’s plan that make it good for Georgia and the rest of the country.
First, “Building a Strong America” will offer state and local governments an unprecedented level of flexibility – allowing us to make decisions at home rather than in Washington, D.C. That’s how infrastructure should be built.
For too long, we have been told where our priorities should be. Now, we will get to drive the conversation and identify projects that matter to Georgians – not bureaucrats.
Second, the President’s plan will emphasize investments in rural America. At least $50 billion will be spent on projects outside of major urban centers.
In Georgia, we have already discovered the need for these investments through the work of our House Rural Development Council. As they met in communities like Toccoa and Tifton, they learned firsthand that the lack of high-speed internet is stifling growth in our rural communities. That’s exactly the kind of need that “Building a Strong America” is designed to address.
Third, this infrastructure plan will accelerate the federal permitting process. The President’s goal is for the federal government to process all permits in two years or less. That will save precious time and money.
Georgia has already shown the rest of the country what can happen when regulators work shoulder to shoulder with builders. When a portion of I-85 collapsed last year, early projections were that it would take several months to clear the rubble and rebuild. We did it in just six weeks. One of the key factors in the acceleration of that project was expediting the permitting process.
As much promise as this plan holds, there is still a lot of work to be done to make it a reality.
I encourage you to learn more about the President’s plan for “Building a Stronger America.” I encourage you to share your thoughts with your representatives in Washington and ask them to work with the President on making this plan a reality. As difficult as it may be, we have to set aside our partisan differences and put America’s future first.
“Building a Strong America” could make our economy stronger and our future brighter. It could make America the envy of the world once again – creating thousands of jobs and driving innovation. But, none of this will happen if we don’t put this plan into action. Tell Congress that it’s time to get to work!
David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) is the 73rd Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. He represents Fannin and Gilmer counties and a portion of Dawson County.