North Carolina could receive at least $8.7 billion in federal funding over the next five years for highways programs, bridge replacement, public transportation, electric vehicles and broadband internet under an infrastructure bill that is being considered by the U.S. Senate.
The White House released state-by-state estimates Wednesday of money available in the bipartisan infrastructure agreement that is being considered by the Senate this week. North Carolina Republican Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis are supporting the bill, which is focused on so-called “hard” infrastructure.
“What we’re doing is throwing the American people a lifeline. It’s a $550 billion infrastructure-only package that meets the priorities of Republicans who negotiated with Democrats to come up with a bill that is fiscally sound and focuses on what the American people believe infrastructure is,” Tillis said in an interview with Fox News last week.
Other estimates of its total cost are around $1 trillion.
North Carolina breakdown
• Roads and bridges: North Carolina could receive $7.2 billion for highway programs and another $457 million for bridge replacement and repairs through congressional funding formulas, the White House said.
North Carolina has 1,460 bridges and more than 3,110 miles of highway in poor condition, according to a 2020 Federal Highway Administration report.
• Public transportation: The state could receive $911 million to improve public transit options.
• Electric vehicle charging network: The state could receive $109 million over the next five years to expand an EV charging network. The state could also apply for some of the $2.5 billion in grant funding for EV charging that is currently included in the bill.
There are slightly more than 16,000 electric vehicles registered in North Carolina, according to June 2021 numbers from the Department of Energy.
• Broadband internet: North Carolina would get at least $100 million to provide broadband coverage, according to the White House. That figure could help at least 424,000 North Carolina residents who lack internet access receive it. More than 30% of people in the state would be eligible for a benefit that helps low-income families afford internet access.
At least 1.1 million North Carolina households lack access to high-speed internet, can’t afford it or don’t have the skills needed to take advantage of the digital economy, according to the North Carolina Department of Information Technology. The majority of counties in the state have less than 65% broadband availability.
Senate GOP hopefuls against the deal
The infrastructure bill has divided Senate Republicans with 17 joining all 50 Democrats in voting to proceed to the legislation — a procedural vote, but an important one. Burr and Tillis voted yes. Former President Donald Trump has repeatedly urged Republicans not to support the measure.
And the top three Republican candidates in North Carolina’s 2022 Senate race, to replace the retiring Burr, are opposed to the package.
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker praised the 33 Republicans who voted no.
“The small portion of the infrastructure bill for paving roads will be needed by our children for driving to their local Bank of China branch to pay off their share of our national debt,” Walker tweeted last week.
U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, who is endorsed by Trump and the Club For Growth, which is also opposed to the deal, said he would not support it, his campaign advisor said.
“Ted is against the legislation as it currently stands. Ted is typically against deficit spending, whether it was being pushed by Democrats or Republicans, but especially now when we are already facing significant problems with inflation spiking thanks to President Biden’s big spending ways,” Jonathan Felts said in an email.
Former Gov. Pat McCrory is also against the package.
“Gov. McCrory believes that the positive items in the package cannot overcome the problematic aspects of it: it lacks an Eisenhower-type vision for our infrastructure needs as a whole, it falls short on coordination with and accountability for state and local governments, and doesn’t do enough to address inflation and debt concerns,” said Jordan Shaw, a McCrory campaign spokesman and advisor.
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