Something absolutely can be done to permanently fix the devastating water problem in Jackson, Miss.
Like many poor communities across the nation, Jackson’s water system has suffered from decades of neglect and low maintenance. Roughly 150,000 residents were under a boil-water notice for more than a month before heavy rainfall and river flooding overwhelmed the pumping system on Aug. 29, 2022. Now, on an urgent basis, the system needs $1 billion to fully repair the water-treatment plant and another $1 billion to bring the rest of the water-distribution system up to a state of good repair.
Unfortunately, no current government program is up to the task of correcting Jackson’s water system problem. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in Congress last year will provide the entire state with only $429 million to fix all of its drinking and wastewater systems. That’s far below the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2020 Report estimating the state needs of at least $6.8 billion over 20 years for those systems.
Adding to that, President Biden’s order to send emergency assistance through FEMA might provide bottled and non-potable water for some time, but few funds for permanent capital improvements.
Congress Should Pass National Infrastructure Bank Act
Fortunately, a bill in Congress, HR 3339, would create a $5-trillion National Infrastructure Bank, or NIB, to finance projects that federal, state and local governments cannot afford. Mississippi could receive up to $47 billion over 10 years to cover all of the state’s backlog in infrastructure improvements, including for roads (40% of which are in poor condition), bridges (with a $1.6-billion funding gap), levees and dams (14 and 130, respectively, rated in unacceptable condition), affordable housing, public transport and more.
The massive investment would improve Mississippi’s economy—currently the lowest per capita in the country—as well as create up to 235,000 family sustaining jobs and improve state and local government finances. The National Infrastructure Bank would immediately invest $2 billion to repair and replace the entire Jackson water system, as a priority.
The model for the NIB has been successfully done four times in our nation’s history thus far. The last one helped end the Great Depression and win World War II. The NIB would be capitalized with private investment and operate as a deposit-taking bank. It requires no new federal taxes, spending or debt. Its lending operations would supercharge the American economy, reduce inflation and “lean” against the coming recession. It is ready to roll out today.
We are asking Congress to pass HR 3339 now! Support for this legislation is growing in Congress and among grassroots organizations. Endorsements include the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, Council of State Governments East Region and the National Association of Counties. Twenty-four state legislatures have introduced support resolutions to Congress, and eight have passed at least one house.
Call on your member of Congress to co-sponsor HR 3339: 202-224-3121. Let us pass the bill, erect a new Jackson water system, and build Mississippi into a model for infrastructure and industry.
The last will be first!
The following elected officials have signed in support of this Op-ed:
- Rep. Thomas Jackson, District 68, Alabama House of Representatives, Thomasville, Ala.
- Sen. Tom Begich, District J, Alaska State Senate, Anchorage, Alaska
- Rep. Yvonne Hinson, District 20, Florida House of Representatives, Gainesville, Fla.
- Sen. Betty Jean Alexander, District 5, Michigan Senate, Detroit, Mich.
- Georgia Lemmons, Detroit Board of Education, Detroit, Mich.
- Lamar Lemmons, former President Detroit Board of Education, Detroit, Mich.
- Rep. Earle Banks, District 67, Mississippi House of Representatives, Jackson, Miss.
- Sen. Robert Jackson, District 11, Mississippi Senate, Marks, Miss.
- Rep. Hester Jackson McCray, District 40, Mississippi House of Representatives, Horn Lake, Miss.
- Rep. Rickey Thompson, District 16, Mississippi House of Representatives, Shannon, Miss.
- Rep. Tracey Rosebud, District 30, Mississippi House of Representatives, Tutwiler, Miss.
- Rep. Alan Green, Candidate for State Auditor, St. Louis, Mo.
- Rep. Shelly Willingham, District 23, North Carolina House of Representatives, Rocky Mount, N.C.
- Assemblyman. Don Guardian, District 2, New Jersey Assembly, Atlantic City, N.J.
- Stan Forczek, Principal Consultant, GI Consulting, Former Executive Amtrak, Williamstown N.J.
- Sen. William Tallman, District 18, New Mexico Senate, Albuquerque, N.M.
- Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, District 12, New Mexico Senate, Albuquerque N.M.
- Sen. Harold Pope, Jr. District 23, New Mexico Senate, Albuquerque, N.M.
- Rep. Joy Garratt, District 29, New Mexico House of Representatives, Albuquerque N.M.
- Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, Former Assistant Speaker, New York Assembly, Albany, N.Y.
- Maryjane Shimsky, District 12, Westchester County NY Board of Legislators, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
- Rep. Tavia Galonski, District 35, Ohio House of Representatives, Akron, Ohio
- Rep. Joe Ciresi, District 146, Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Royersford, Pa.
- Rep. Robert Williams, District 62, South Carolina House of Representatives, Darlington, S.C.
- Delegate Sam Rasoul, District 11, Virginia House of Delegates, Roanoke, Va.
- Alphecca Muttardy, former Senior Economist, International Monetary Fund, Fairfax, Va.
For more information, email the Coalition for a National Infrastructure Bank at info@NIBCoalition.com.
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