The Senate on Tuesday passed the $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill in a bipartisan 69-30 vote, handing President Biden a win. But how much of that money is going to funnel to Bay Area projects?
While passage in the House is not guaranteed and could face serious pushback from the Progressive Caucus, Democrats are celebrating the passage of the bill in the Senate, with the help of 19 Republican votes — including one from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The New York Times sees the vote as a signal of former President Trump's "waning influence on Capitol Hill," after he spent weeks screaming about derailing the bill.
The bill is a far cry from the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan originally proposed by President Biden, and some of what was cut — including huge amounts of funding for clean energy and transit projects — will have to make it into the upcoming $3.5 trillion budget plan that Senate Democrats plan to pass with a simple majority, through the process known as reconciliation.
Fremont-based House member Rep. Ro Khanna told the Chronicle last week that for House progressives, the infrastructure bill has to be held hostage until the larger budget plan passes as well.
"If the package is gonna pass the House and not lose 30 to 40 progressive votes, it’s got to stick to that $3.5 trillion," Khanna said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated that Friday, saying, per the Times, "Whatever you can achieve in a bipartisan way — bravo, we salute it. But at the same time, we’re not going forward with leaving people behind."
But what is coming to the Bay Area and Northern California in the infrastructure bill as it stands? A full laundry list isn't available just yet, but the short answer is that any projects that BART or Muni want to do will have to compete for pools for money with other transit agencies around the country. And money that was earmarked for Bay Area projects in the "surface transportation bill" passed by the House on July 1 — including shoring up Highway 37 in the North Bay, which is currently highly prone to flooding and sea-level rise — isn't included here.
Across the state, we will see $25.3 billion coming for highway projects, $4.2 billion for bridges, and $9.45 billion for public transportation over five years. And while Amtrak is a nationwide concern, the favorite rail company of President Biden scored $66 billion in the bill, the most federal money the company has seen since its founding in 1971 — so maybe it can afford to buy a few new trains to replace its rusty, dusty fleet.
The Chronicle notes that there is $17 million earmarked for Lake Tahoe restoration projects and removing invasive species — money requested by Senator Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein also requested $24 million for wetlands restoration and water quality work in San Francisco Bay, which made it into the Senate bill, though this pales in comparison to the $238 million going to restoration of Chesapeake Bay.
Senator Alex Padilla pushed through $5 billion over five years aimed at strengthening the state's electrical grid and avoiding blackouts — but that sounds like money that will likely just be funneled to PG&E to help with their supposed 10-year project to put more power lines underground.
Also in the bill is $8.3 billion for water infrastructure across the West — including $1.15 billion for water storage, a good chunk of which is likely to go to the water-starved Central Valley.
There's also $384 million to support the creation of more electric vehicle charging stations across California — with the possibility of applying for more. And $100 million is earmarked for expanding broadband internet access, with subsidy to provide discounts on broadband access to low-income households.
Biden Administration figures and senators have spent weeks hammering out details of the infrastructure bill and how to pay for it — and though some Senate Republicans balked after the Congressional Budget Office revealed Thursday that the bill would add $256 billion to the deficit over the next decade, 19 of them voted for it anyway.
As the Times notes, under Biden's ambitious plans, budget deficits are expected to be $1.3 trillion annually through this decade, with tax increases on corporations and high earners bringing the budget in balance by the 2030s.
Photo: Matthew Henry