Study calls for creation of infrastructure commission to select projects for funding

Published 30 March 2006

Joining forces with calls for reforming lobbying practices in Congress, a group calls for creating a nonpartisan infrastructure commission to choose which earmarked projects should be funded and which ones rejected

One way reform-oriented legislators suggested to keep the influence of lobbyists in check was to change the rules by which earmarked projects (some call them “pork”) are inserted into bills. Earlier this week a nonpartisan group proposed that a federally funded agency be created to review public infrastructure funding requests and recommend which ones should be granted and which should be rejected. Everett Ehrlich, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Commission on Public Infrastructure, said, “We need to change the way we fund infrastructure.” Working with state and local governments, the proposed National Investment Corporation would “act as the project evaluator and financing agency for all major infrastructure projects,” according to the group’s statement.

The aim is to introduce more rationality to, and remove as much pork from, decision making regarding infrastructure projects in the United States. Thus rather than have members of Congress earmark funds for projects such as new or renovated highways, bridges, and water systems, the nonpartisan National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) would evaluate each request and determine which ones should receive federal dollars.

The CSIS proposals are the by-product of a two-year study on infrastructure investment, which was released last November. The study was well under way before Hurricane Katrina last August, but Ehrlich said revelations from the natural disaster regarding critical infrastructure “put a fire under what we’re talking about.”