The U.S. Senate has approved a bill directing $1 trillion toward highways, bridges, expanding broadband and a host of other areas, and the measure could deliver billions of dollars to the Keystone State.
The Senate passed the bill Tuesday with a vote of 69-30. The bipartisan support for the bill could be as eye-popping as the billions in new spending.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Scranton Democrat, pressed hard for the package and hailed it as a historic bill that will aid cities and small towns. Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey voted against the package, calling it both too expansive and too expensive.
The U.S. House of Representatives must still sign off on the package and Congress is also poised to tackle an even broader domestic spending bill.
The infrastructure bill, if approved in its current form, would direct nearly $19 billion to Pennsylvania, and possibly more. Here’s a look at where the money would be spent.
Roads and bridges
Pennsylvania would receive $11.3 billion for federal-aid highway programs and an additional $1.6 billion for bridge replacement and repairs over 5 years. Across the commonwealth, more than 3,300 bridges and over 7,540 miles of highway are in poor condition, according to Casey’s office.
The Keystone State would get $2.8 billion to improve the state’s public transportation systems. The bill would also finance thousands of electric school buses nationwide.
Better broadband coverage
The package would direct a minimum of $100 million to improve Pennsylvania’s broadband coverage. More than 390,000 people in Pennsylvania don’t have broadband access, Casey’s office said.
Pennsylvania would get $3 billion to help reclaim abandoned mines. The bill would also provide additional money to plug and remediate orphaned wells.
The bill would provide $171 million to bolster the state’s clean energy options, such as expanding the network of charging stations for electric vehicles and other efforts to address climate change.
Cleaner drinking water
The spending package would replace the nation’s lead water pipes and service lines. Pennsylvania has about 160,000 lead service lines, according to Casey’s office.
Casey, Pennsylvania’s senior senator, had aggressively worked to win support for the infrastructure package.
“This vital, bipartisan investment in American communities is long overdue,” Casey said in a statement.
“Today, the Senate came together and made a substantial investment in our communities and our future,” Casey added. “We have allocated critical funding to make Pennsylvania roads and bridges safer, expand broadband access and improve public transportation, while tackling the climate crisis by prioritizing electric and clean energy. These investments will support the economic growth of small towns across the nation, and rural and urban areas alike.”
Meanwhile, Toomey repeatedly criticized the cost and scope of the infrastructure package. Toomey had voiced support for investing in roads and bridges but said the price tag of the bill was too high.
“There is a need to expand and maintain our nation’s real, physical infrastructure, which is why the federal government spends billions on these projects every year,” Toomey said in a statement Tuesday. “But this legislation is too expensive, too expansive, too unpaid for, and too threatening to the innovative cryptocurrency economy.”
Toomey had said billions in federal pandemic recovery money remains to be spent and the private sector is willing to invest in areas such as electric charging stations.
Toomey and a few other lawmakers argued that the bill would lead to tighter regulations on the growing cryptocurrency market and could potentially stymie innovation in the U.S. The bill would institute tax-reporting requirements for cryptocurrency brokers, just as stockbrokers must report their sales to the Internal Revenue Service, the Associated Press reported.
Even with the passage of the infrastructure bill, Casey continues to press for greater investments in early childhood education and health care for kids. He’s pushing for automatic Medicaid eligibility for all kids from birth to age 18 and wants to permanently expand the child tax credit in the COVID-19 relief package.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center said the infrastructure bill makes “important and long overdue investments” in transportation and clean drinking water.
But the center also said too much of President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda wasn’t part of the final bill. The liberal-leaning group wanted to see greater investments in education, childcare and housing. Still, the center is urging lawmakers to support the package.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation cheered passage of the infrastructure bill. The foundation noted the money would boost funds for wastewater treatment plants and would improve Pennsylvania waterways. The foundation said the money could boost Pennsylvania’s lagging efforts to meet targets to reduce pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay.