THE SCHOCK FILE - A different idea for economic stimulus

Aaron Schock
Aaron Schock (R) is the U.S. Rep. for the 18th Congressional District.

Everyone can agree that we are facing daunting economic challenges and our economy is in a recession.  With each passing day, families across America are watching their bills pile up and their savings disappear.

Compounding the problem, our nation’s infrastructure is in desperate need of improvements.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, only 42 percent of our roads are in “good” condition, 13.1 percent of our bridges are structurally deficient and 13.6 percent of our highways are obsolete.

Our crumbling infrastructure costs lives from traffic deaths that could be avoided with safer, more modern design and capacity.  Inadequate infrastructure also wastes time and money in traffic jams.  The financial cost of this waste is estimated to be $78 billion per year.

Our new President is correct in saying we must take action to stimulate the economy by investing in our infrastructure and I agree it is time for action.

This investment in our infrastructure, however, must be targeted, timely and responsible. 

Unfortunately, the plan put forth by the House Leadership fails to meet these goals.  While their proposal is billed as a transportation and infrastructure investment package, in actuality less than eight percent will be put towards improving our roads, runways, rail lines and rivers.   This amount of funding simply will not create the amount of jobs promised by President Obama.

Congress must act, but more importantly we have to get that action right.   Congress has a chance now to stem the loss of jobs and savings. We cannot blow this opportunity to jump start the economy with a wasteful bill that will put our nation more deeply into debt and is so poorly designed that it will not create jobs.

The devil is in the details of the stimulus bill and I for one intend to examine the particulars to make sure money is wisely spent on projects that will generate economic growth.  A bad bill that fails to target the funds to infrastructure projects that will create economic growth is worse than no bill at all.

The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, on which I serve, proposed a $90 billion investment in infrastructure, which would create or sustain 2.7 million jobs of the 3.5 million the new President has requested be created through stimulus.  Unfortunately, the proposed stimulus does not include this bipartisan proposal submitted by the Democratic Chairman and Ranking Republican Member of my Committee.

One way to ensure failure of this package is if Congressional leaders try to ram it through without allowing input from both sides of the aisle.

The current stimulus proposal includes $200 million for grass planting on the National Mall and $224 million presumed to go to build a new sewer treatment plant in Mexico.  Instead of these misguided priorities, I believe we should use the stimulus funding to make real investments, such as improving Corridor 67, Veterans Drive in Pekin or Technology Boulevard in East Peoria.  These projects would create jobs and stimulate economic growth throughout the region.

In addition creating jobs, any stimulus package should provide tax relief for working families. House Republicans have proposed reducing the lowest individual tax rates from 15 percent to 10 percent and from 10 percent to 5 percent. As a result every taxpaying-family in America will see an immediate increase in their income with an average benefit of $500 in tax relief from the drop in the 10 percent bracket and $1,200 for the drop in the 15 percent bracket. A married couple filing jointly could save up to $3,200 a year in taxes.

Tax incentives to work, produce and create jobs have proven to be the most efficient catalyst for expanding the economy and therefore should not be left out of the stimulus package.

Also, we must provide better assistance to those struggling to find work during these times of high unemployment.  Incredibly, the Federal Government actually imposes income taxes on an individual receiving unemployment benefits. House Republicans propose to make unemployment benefits tax free so that those individuals between jobs can focus on providing for their families.

The bottom line is, the proposed stimulus can be enhanced to meet the vision of President Obama.  I pledge to work with him and with other members of Congress to ensure your taxpayer dollars are being spent in a targeted, timely and responsible fashion.