Announced in his State of the Union address on Feb. 12, President Obama outlined his “Fix-It First” program, an ambitious $50 billion stimulus proposal to revitalize the country’s roads and bridges among a slew of other transportation projects.
Designed to spur job growth by updating railways, transit systems and airports, the new stimulus plan is by comparison less than one-eighth of the funds allocated for Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which has spent an estimated $840 billion to date.
“I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts,” Obama said to lawmakers at the State of the Union address.
If approved by Congress, a larger portion of the stimulus, $40 billion, will go toward much-needed infrastructure repairs, including updates to nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges around the US.
“If [President Obama] wants to take some money to better our bridges and other construction projects around the United States, I think that’s ok,” said Cameron Brunt, business management major at UVU. “But I don’t know how many jobs that’s going to create.”
A national infrastructure bank would take up the remaining $10 billion, which would operate independently to provide government bonds for both public and private construction projects. With a national debt hovering over $16 billion, Courtney Sorenson, an art and visual communication major, doesn’t think an infrastructure bank is what the country needs right now.
“[The infrastructure bank] would be better later. It’s a good idea, just later,” Sorenson said. “We need to get the debt caught up and get our feet under us first before we think of something like that. I could see that tanking really fast.”
Other students on campus aren’t as concerned with the proposed stimulus price tag, but whether the plan will even pass through Congress.
“Compared to the debt we have right now in the trillions, I think it’s not that big of an issue. What is the debt, like $16 trillion right now?” said Michael Houck, an audio engineering major. “We’re only asking for $50 billion, I would approve it. I think we need it, but at the same time, I don’t think it will happen.”
The question remains, however, as the government debates billions of dollars in spending cuts for the remainder of the year, if a $50 billion stimulus should be the topic of discussion.
“I think it’s reasonable because we have to fix all these bridges, but at the same time we do need to make some [budget] cuts,” Houck said. “We are in a lot of debt and compared to everything else we do need right now, I don’t know if this is top priority or not. It’s a difficult choice.”