As many readers may know, we’ve been pushing the idea that one of the best ways our state could create jobs today would be to issue bonds for much needed investments in infrastructure and schools. This idea is not new. If fact, other states have already implemented this policy as way to boost job creation and save money over the long-term. Writing in Bloomburg Yesterday, policy guru Ezra Klein makes a solid case for increasing federal spending on infrastructure that applies equally at the state-level.
For a country with more than $2 trillion in unmet infrastructure needs, this is a remarkable opportunity. But it gets better. Weak global demand means raw materials are cheap. And the bursting of the housing bubble means unemployment in the construction sector is high. We can borrow at a bargain, buy at a bargain and ease the unemployment crisis in the hardest-hit sector of our economy, all while making desperately needed investments in our future competitiveness and quality of life.
Plus, if we don’t do it now, we’ll have to do it later. Delaying a dollar of bridge repair just means it’s a dollar we’ll have to pay later. And by that time, it might be more than a dollar, because it’s cheaper to repair a bridge than rebuild one that has crumbled.
Good infrastructure and high-preforming schools and colleges are the core building blocks for a thriving state economy. Quality infrastructure also helps us attract new businesses, entrepreneurs and residents to West Virginia. As Sean has pointed out before, our infrastructure is in need of major repair and the best option we have for funding these needs to to increase the sale of state bonds.
As Ezra points out above, the current economic climate make this a perfect time to borrow. Interest rates are historically low, so the state’s short-term obligations will be low as well. The state’s economy will have presumably improved once the bonds mature, meaning taxpayers will get a good return on their investment. Taking on a responsible amount of debt to pay for infrastructure makes sense long-term, just as borrowing money for home improvements makes long-term sense for a homeowner.
State leaders should get back on course with a healthy package of bonds devoted to new school construction and basic infrastructure needs. This would help ensure our competitiveness far into the 21st century and spark new hiring in construction, teaching and other professions