Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Four years ago, before the bi-partisan consensus on infrastructure spending had frayed, it might not have been remarkable to hear a Republican candidate for President say he -- or she -- believed in infrastructure spending, even if that meant borrowing. But in a year where Republican governors from Florida to New Jersey pulled the plug on big, already-in-the works projects, maybe it is.
"We're going to have to make an investment in our infrastructure and that's a place where if we make that investment, it will pay a return," Romney told a town hall meeting in Charleston, South Carolina December 17, expanding on remarks he made in New Hampshire last week.
And by infrastructure Romney took a broad view -- including roads, bridges, rail, ports, and air travel.
He also gave a little window into his economic theory.
"For instance, with regards to ports, as ports are dredged and made deep water ports and made more competitive they are then able to have more produce come in to them, more products come in to them and can charge therefore on the product coming in and can pay back the cost of the dredging or improvement," he said.
Here's a video posted by Building America's Future, a group that supports more spending on infrastructure. Full transcript of the exchange below.
Here's the transcript:
Question: What is your vision for improving our infrastructure system?
Romney: We got infrastructure issues in our ports, on our rail yards, on our aircraft systems, in our highways in particular.
I came in as governor of my state and my transportation people said that we had 550 structurally deficient bridges in my state. Five hundred and fifty. And we were spending $100 million a year on bridge repairs -- I doubled that to $200 million a year.
Now, that means I had to cut some other things to make sure we were able to put priority behind getting our bridges up to speed. We're going to have to make an investment in our infrastructure and that's a place where if we make that investment, it will pay a return. I don't mind borrowing if something has a revenue stream that will pay back the borrowing.
What I don't like is what we see in Washington where we borrow for just everyday expenses with no new revenue stream to pay it back.
But for instance with regards to ports, as ports are dredged and made deep water ports and made more competitive they are then able to have more produce come in to them, more products come in to them and can charge therefore on the product coming in and can pay back the cost of the dredging or improvement.
That's what's going to have to happen on our ports, on our highways, in our aircraft system.
We're going to have to make the investment to upgrade our infrastructure to make it competitive globally but also so our enterprises can be successful in moving products around. Then we can be competitive sending products around the world.
I recognize that America has to compete and for us to compete to have good jobs we have need to have good infrastructure and I'll stand behind --
By the way, the decision as to which ports to dredge and which rail lines to improve and which highways to get upgraded that's a decision to be made on analysis of need, a potential for return and opportunity not based upon politics.