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Vermont Congressional representatives discuss infrastructure bills

Vermont Congressman Peter Welch (file)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Congressman Peter Welch (file)

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns hosted Democratic Congressman Peter Welch and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders Wednesday for a virtual discussion on the federal infrastructure bill and what its passage could mean for the state.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns works with and advocates for local governments across the state. During its virtual annual meeting this week members of the state’s congressional delegation were invited to talk about negotiations over the federal infrastructure packages.

Sanders is a former mayor of Burlington who now chairs the Senate budget committee. He offered his review of activity on the bills.

“If anybody out there is confused about what is going on in Washington, join the club. It is a very confusing moment. There is a great debate going on now about the bipartisan, so called bipartisan infrastructure plan. That’s about $550 billion in new money that goes into repairing our crumbling infrastructure," Sanders said. "One of the concerns that I have, and I think it’s not just for Vermont it’s for the nation, do we in fact have the workforce to begin to adequately address our infrastructure crises?”

Vermont’s sole House member Peter Welch followed up Sanders’ comments telling League members the infrastructure bill is a rare opportunity to address climate change and human infrastructure needs.

“The overall bill is transformative in the sense that the focus is really about our communities with the infrastructure bill in addressing the problems they have of dirty water, of failed bridges and roads, for broadband," said Welch. "The other thing there’s always the talk about how big this number is. But let’s put it in perspective. This was a $3.5 trillion proposal over 10 years. And over those ten years the Gross Domestic Product in this country is about $282 trillion. So 3.5 that’s an overdue investment and it’s an affordable investment.”

The two spent about a half hour speaking and answering questions from local officials. Sanders said what’s before them in Washington has been discussed for decades and the measures would help constituents and localities.

“How often have we heard our infrastructure is crumbling. Everybody knows this. We are finally trying to deal with it. And in terms of what we call human infrastructure we are way behind the rest of the world, way behind in terms of how we treat our children. We are behind other countries in terms of paid family and medical leave. And then you’ve got on top of all of that stuff housing and everything else. Then you’ve got the crisis of climate. I know it is enormously partisan and bitter but the stakes are extraordinary.”

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy was unable to attend the meeting so a field representative from his Vermont office provided a presentation on transportation and community investment provisions in the infrastructure proposals.

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