Big Ideas to Fund Infrastructure and Save the Planet - South Dade News Leader: Opinion

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Big Ideas to Fund Infrastructure and Save the Planet

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Posted: Friday, July 27, 2018 10:00 am

For years, Americans have been frustrated with our country’s insufficient transportation infrastructure. In South Dade, the Florida Keys, and all across South Florida, people waste away a significant portion of each day stuck in traffic and separated from their homes, their families, and their pastimes. Traffic congestion costs our economy billions of dollars each year, while diminishing quality of life for the average American.

Another major concern for many Americans, especially among younger generations and those who live in communities like ours, is the reality of rising global temperatures, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather caused by the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. For older generations, saddling young Americans with a crushing environmental debt – meaning an unhealthy planet where life is less viable – is seen to be at least as immoral as leaving behind an unsustainable fiscal debt. While I think alarmists contribute little to the advancement of this cause, I do believe the time to act is now.

In South Florida we are already experiencing the effects of higher sea levels with chronic coastal flooding and salt water intrusion in the Everglades, which threatens our drinking water supply, and ocean acidification damaging coral reefs and threatening the livelihoods of fishermen and charter boat captains. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, sea levels along South Florida are expected to rise about 15 inches above current levels by 2045. Just a one-foot increase in sea level is estimated to threaten up to $6.4 billion in taxable real estate in Miami-Dade County.

So all of this is why earlier this week I filed the MARKET CHOICE Act, which recognizes the cost of carbon dioxide emissions while at the same time repealing the gas tax which overburdens working Americans and is failing to fund our nation’s infrastructure needs.

Specifically, this bill would:

• Set the United States on a path to reduce carbon emissions and not only fulfill, but exceed the commitments set out under the Paris agreement;

• Raise much-needed revenue to modernize our national infrastructure – a bipartisan priority that remains elusive without a new influx of revenue – by providing an additional $285 billion for the Highway Trust Fund and $18 billion for the Airport and Airways Trust Fund;

• Assist communities with enhancement of natural barriers, modernization and maintenance of current infrastructure, such as levees, elevated roads, and floodwalls to protect our waterfront communities from rising seas and tropical storms;

• Eliminate regressive, inefficient and discriminatory taxes like the gasoline tax and the aviation fuel tax to promote an equitable funding stream for our country's critical infrastructure needs;

• Create long-term regulatory certainty by establishing a moratorium on the EPA from finalizing and enforcing Clean Air Act regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, allowing utilities and businesses to make long-term investments to improve service to consumers;

• Ensure American producers are not at a competitive disadvantage abroad or against foreign imports by adding a border adjustment on goods from nations without an emissions fee, and a credit to American exporters; and

• Protect lower-income Americans from higher utility bills and assist any displaced energy-sector workers.

While I’m realistic an ambitious and innovative solution like this will take time to build support, I truly believe that one day this bill or legislation similar to it will become law. At this time of deep political division, and some days even political chaos, I believe we need big, sober solutions to address some of our country’s greatest challenges. Elected officials owe it to every American and especially to younger generations who are understandably concerned about the future to put forward grand ideas, and it’s my hope this proposal will spark an important debate about investing in our country’s infrastructure and what to do to protect the environment from the perils of human-induced changes in the climate.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R), represents FL-26 district

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