In a positive development for water infrastructure funding, a new Executive Council on Infrastructure was recently formed with the purpose of formulating recommendations to help facilitate more private sector investment in U.S. infrastructure. The Council, part of the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center, is composed of corporate CEOs and other executives drawn from the financial, industrial, logistics and services industries. The Council’s goal is to connect private capital to American infrastructure and to free up billions of dollars that could be available to finance infrastructure improvements. The Council will explore ways to fill in gaps in the private sector’s knowledge of infrastructure that currently discourage private investment. It will also examine the legislative and regulatory barriers to private funding and the various financial vehicles that could be used to attract more of that funding.
The Council plans to issue a set of specific recommendations for accomplishing this mission in a report scheduled for 2016.
Council founders have noted that despite bipartisan efforts in Congress and state legislatures, the reality is that government alone can’t fund all the critical infrastructure that our country needs now and in future decades. They point out the growing deficit in what the U.S. spends on infrastructure versus that of countries with which we compete, citing a U.S. Treasury Department statistic showing that our government’s investment in infrastructure as a percentage of economic output has fallen by 50 percent in the last 50 years.
The Council recognizes the enormous potential of private capital to help address this challenge and the equally formidable obstacles that currently prevent use of that capital. The Council views its role as “stepping up to identify the barriers holding back this much-needed funding, explore ways to overcome them, and develop strategies to encourage additional private investment in infrastructure” and the promotion of economic growth.
The Council’s members are: Douglas Peterson, President and CEO, MCGraw Hill Financial; Susan Story, President and CEO, American Water; Patrick Decker, President and CEO, Xylem; Michael Ducker, President and CEO, FedEx Freight; Jack Ehnes, CEO, California State Teacher’s Retirement System; Jane Garvey, Chairman, Meridiam (North America) Infrastructure Fund; P. Scott Ozanus, Deputy Chairman and CEO, KPMG LLP; Suzanne Shank, President and CEO, Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., LLC; and Eric Cantor, Former House Majority Leader and currently Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Moelis & Company.
We at CWC have long advocated for the use of private capital and creative financing vehicles to fund water infrastructure. We have frequently written, for example, on the promise of public-private partnerships and vehicles like private activity bonds in funding water infrastructure projects. So we are gratified by the formation of the Council and encouraged by its recognition that governmental and other barriers to private investment in infrastructure must be removed and more attention must be paid to innovative private funding arrangements for infrastructure. We will monitor the Council’s progress and we look forward to keeping you apprised along the way.