We began 2009 debating how the nation should go about stimulating our economy and creating jobs, and particularly the role of infrastructure investment. A year later, the discussion has turned to the successes and failures of the resulting American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and again, the role of infrastructure investment.
The urgency of channeling the stimulus funds into the economy meant that the funds went primarily to maintenance and "shovel ready" projects that would have otherwise been delayed. The Associated Press recently conducted an analysis of local investments versus rises or declines in the unemployment level. They concluded that, despite the investment, unemployment remained unchanged. I find this to be disappointing.
We have yet to see any solid data on the number of jobs that were saved or the long-term impact on business development. It's important to keep in mind that infrastructure investment -- not just the transportation spending mentioned in the AP piece, but all infrastructure spending -- amounted to less than 10 percent of the $787 billion stimulus package.
While further analysis is still needed to quantify the impact of the stimulus spending, it does seem to have made a difference. However, the short-term commitment envisioned as part of the stimulus is only one piece of the puzzle. If a long-term plan isn't put into place -- one that includes sufficient funding levels and a dedicated revenue source, such as the desperately needed six-year authorization of the surface transportation system -- it could amount to nothing more than an ineffective bandage.
ANTHONY N. LUSICH