Opinion: Biden’s infrastructure plan is too much

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 9/24/21

President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending package is not the way to go. Certainly, the $1 trillion infrastructure funding package is long overdue and much needed throughout America’s …

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Opinion: Biden’s infrastructure plan is too much

Posted

President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending package is not the way to go.

Certainly, the $1 trillion infrastructure funding package is long overdue and much needed throughout America’s deteriorating infrastructure systems. There has been way too much foot-dragging in Congress for too long a period of time on how to fund highway maintenance and construction, beefing up the national electrical grid, water and sewer replacements and public transit improvements, to name a few components.

Congress needs to get on with authorization of the “Build Back Better” package and put the funding in motion. Construction jobs pay well, and America needs to get jobs filled and people back on payrolls, the sooner the better.

It’s bigger than the New Deal or the Great Society

The $3.5 trillion funding plan is way too much of a Christmas tree with something for everyone. It covers economic measures, education, social welfare, climate change and foreign policy.

First, the plan needs to be pared back to a more reasonable proportioned package. This mentality of solving every social problem right now may sound good, but America simply cannot afford it. Moderation is the word and practice to be used.

Secondly, Congress and the president need to be more cognizant of the debt that has been piling up. As a nation, we have been on a spending spree too long, and now is not the time to crank it up even higher. One newspaper op-ed cited Biden’s joint proposals as the equivalent to President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal all in one big scoop. Our country’s leaders need to be more diligent in not loading up the national debt for our children and grandchildren to pay.

Finally, the idea of simply funding the same programs as in the past is short-sighted. Things have changed so much even before the pandemic. Thoughtful analysis and on-the-ground awareness of the needs of those who are living in poverty or homeless or without employment or with food insecurity should first be done with retooling programs based on the findings of such an updating effort.

Will it happen or not?

Having outlined the $1.0 trillion infrastructure package and the massive $3.5 trillion social cradle-to-grave social funding package, the whole effort may be moot. Between the Republicans and the progressive Democrats, none of this may come to fruition. President Biden’s legacy may go up in smoke. We shall see in the coming days and weeks. 

Come learn about the city candidates

It’s time to gather and learn about what each candidate stands for as well as what they are not supporting. Although there have been one or two forums previously, we are now in the home stretch with roughly one month to go to the Nov. 2 elections. I have checked with staff from Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster to see what is on the radar. So far, only two forums have been announced. One is with the Westminster mayoral and council candidates. Mark your calendars for Wednesday, Oct. 13. The Westminster Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the forum from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Westminster City Council Chambers. Attendees will need to register online at no cost. It will be in person.

A second Westy chamber-sponsored event, which will be virtual Saturday, Oct. 16, runs from 10 a.m. to noon. Check the chamber’s website for details. The Thornton-Northglenn Rotary Club is hosting a Northglenn candidates’ forum on the same date at 6:30 p.m. at the brand-new Parsons Theatre. It is open to the public at no cost. A round of applause and a big thank you to the Westminster Chamber and the Thornton-Northglenn Rotary Club for putting on these informative events. We need an informed electorate when voting on the issues and the candidates.

Forcing the voters’ hands on ballot issues

Westminster voters will have to decide if they want more debt when voting on two of the eight city ballot questions. The public safety sales and use tax is proposed to be increased 0.15 of 1 percent without any time limit (no sunset). Voters will be voting whether to increase this tax accordingly for police, fire and emergency medical operations. I believe there is a good case to support this tax increase, which city staffers say will generate at least $5 million annually. However, since the debt question is directly tied to the tax increase, between $1.275 million and $1.5 million each year would be taken out of the estimated $5 million in new revenue for debt service. So, that leaves $3.5 million to $3.725 million annually for additional personnel, salary increases, additional equipment purchases and rolling stock. 

Twenty-five million in new debt for what?

The other part of the public safety tax question is whether to authorize up to $25 million in new debt. Unfortunately, the city manager and city council chose to leave us in the dark on what the bond issue proceeds would be used for. I previously speculated that it would be used for a new municipal court facility. However, that is speculation on my part. It begs the question why didn’t the council challenge the staff and do two separate questions on the ballot? They have forced the voting taxpayers’ hands to be all in or vote no. This is not a stand-up, transparent approach to governing. 

Same dilemma with parks and Open Space tax ballot issue

In the same fashion, the city manager, city attorney and city council are forcing the voters to vote in the dark. The tax rate remains the same, but the proposal would extend the existing 0.25 of 1% sales and use tax to the end of 2041. Previously, voters had authorized the tax to the end of 2032. By adding nine more years on the tax, it allows the city to issue new debt against this 20-year revenue stream.

The new debt would be up to $15 million, but it is anyone’s guess how the funds would be used. While the ballot is silent on specific ways bond funds would be used, there have been statements by some councilmembers that the bond authorization would allow more open space to be purchased quickly. However, based on past practices staff has used parks and Open Space tax revenues at the two city golf courses, among other uses.

Separate ballot issues is the right way to do it

On the bond authorizing language for both the public safety tax and the parks and Open Space tax, bond authorization language should be separate ballot issues. Furthermore, the ballot language should specify how the bond proceeds will be used. This approach of forcing the voters’ hands and let’s keep them in the dark modus operandi is so typical of this city administration and, at times, the vast majority of the city council. Once again, it is a good, clear example that it is time to clean house. I am voting no on both issues and say, “Come back and do it the right way.”

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at bcjayhawk68@gmail.com.

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