State Legislators Send Letter to McConnell, Capito, Hold Firm on Race Equity, Climate Goals for Implementing Federal Infrastructure Plan
February 23, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DATE: February 23, 2022

CONTACT: Erin McCann Ciani

State Legislators Send Letter to McConnell, Capito, Hold Firm on Race Equity, Climate Goals for Implementing Federal Infrastructure Plan

Legislative Leaders on infrastructure-related committees in CO, MD, MI, and FL Pushback on McConnell Effort to Influence Governors

WASHINGTON DC – This week, state lawmakers serving on infrastructure-related committees from several states sent a letter to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito in response to their attempt to influence Governors in the implementation of the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA). Senators McConnell and Capito sent a letter on February 9 to states expressing their “disappointment” with the guidance provided by the US Department of Transportation to states. Today the state legislators fired back with a letter of their own. 

“Our vision is to use this infrastructure opportunity to help people connect to each other and to jobs, while reversing the short-sided, climate-damaging approaches of the past,” said Colorado State Senator Faith Winter, Chair of the Transportation and Energy Committee. “We’ve heard from our constituents what their priorities are and will continue to engage them in ensuring successful implementation of this law.”

State legislators from Colorado, Florida, Maryland, and Michigan reminded the Senators that local lawmakers know their communities best and that executing the IIJA with race equity and climate resiliency as priorities is actually better for their constituents and the economy. 

“The Senators’ letter expressed ‘disappointment’ but really they should be concerned about the disgrace of federal policies and inaction that have perpetuated racial inequality in infrastructure for decades,” said Michigan State Senator Erika Geiss, Minority Vice-Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Executive Vice Chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. “These resources finally begin to give state lawmakers some tools to tear down historic barriers and we fully intend to maximize them.”

In the letter to Senators McConnell and Capito state lawmakers wrote:

“We strongly believe that the guidance was not only appropriate but that the goals of equity and climate resiliency are in fact representative of the majority of lawmakers who approved it. The IIJA was passed by Congress with bipartisan support; in fact, both of you voted in favor of the legislation. The administration has provided both fair and legal guidance for states on implementation. It is now up to states to execute the provisions of this act.”

“A healthier, more equitable future is possible, but we can’t keep making the same mistakes that lead us to this point,” said Maryland State Delegate Brooke Lierman, Chair of the Environment and Transportation Subcommittee. “Implementing technologies and strategies that use renewable energy and produce less pollution makes sense for our public health and our equitable economic growth.”

The initial guidance provided to states from the Biden Administration on IIJA, suggested states prioritize projects that promote climate resilience and environmental equity. The guidance was necessary because, as analysis from the Brookings Institute and others have shown, states and the federal agencies implementing the funding will be largely responsible for achieving these goals.

“Placing a high priority on climate resiliency and transit options now will help us avoid more costly repairs and rebuilding in the future,” said Florida State Representative Dotie Joseph, member of the Tourism, Infrastructure, and Energy Committee. “The communities we represent deserve access to safer roads, cleaner modes of transportation, and healthier environments.”

The State Innovation Exchange (SiX), a national strategy organization that supports state lawmakers advancing progressive policies, has developed a primer that outlines key considerations for anti-racist transportation policy. And the advocacy organization Transportation for America has additional tools for understanding how the IIJA will work.

Full Text of the Letter Below:

February 22, 2022

The Honorable Mitch McConnell 

317 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Shelley Moore Capito

172 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Shelley Moore Capito:

Earlier this month, you commissioned a letter to our nation’s governors directing them to ignore legitimate guidance from the federal government on implementation of the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA). The letter you sent outlines your “disappointment” with the guidance provided by the US Department of Transportation, describing it as “a wish list of policies not reflected in the IIJA.” 

We strongly believe that the guidance was not only appropriate but that the goals of equity and climate resiliency are in fact representative of the majority of lawmakers who approved it. The IIJA was passed by Congress with bipartisan support; in fact, both of you voted in favor of the legislation. The administration has provided both fair and legal guidance for states on implementation. It is now up to states to execute the provisions of this act. 

As legislators who will execute the implementation of this new law at the state level, we can assure you that we will work diligently with the people we serve to ensure it succeeds in building stronger local economies, vibrant neighborhoods, and healthy communities. Our states are working to build a transportation system of the future that serves all of our people, which will be greatly aided by the broad latitude we have within implementing IIJA. For instance, ensuring quality public transit options in low-income communities and communities of color will improve the economy, spur jobs, and begin to tear down the racial inequality that has been built into our country’s infrastructure at every level. Similarly, incorporating emerging technologies like electric vehicle infrastructure, broadband connectivity along routes, and renewable energy options will not only be better for our health and environment, it will provide more of the crucial connectivity we all need as we emerge from the Covid pandemic. As legislators from diverse states, we wholeheartedly agree that states should value an array of transportation modes, ones that prioritize efficiency for a broad range of our residents, reduce climate emissions, and increase environmental justice.

We do agree with the closing of your February 9th letter that state leaders “understand firsthand how carrying out projects that are responsive to the unique infrastructure needs of your state will spur economic growth, create jobs, and improve the quality of life for all of your residents.” Rest assured that we will use our roles, expertise, and these resources to serve our communities in the spirit of this new provision, and we look forward to getting to work on behalf of our constituents. 

Sincerely,

Colorado State Senator Faith Winter, Chair of the Transportation and Energy Committee

Michigan State Senator Erika Geiss, Minority Vice-Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Executive Vice Chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus

Maryland State Delegate Brooke Lierman, Member of the Environment and Transportation Committee

Florida State Representative Dotie Joseph, Member of the Tourism, Infrastructure, and Energy Committee

CC:

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Tom Carper

Colorado Governor Jared Polis

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

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