By LISA BOWERS
Mining Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — Federal lawmakers representing the Upper Peninsula had varied responses to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address Tuesday, expressing concerns about veteran health care, fair wages and the opioid crisis — but the resounding theme was infrastructure.
Trump called on Congress to come up with legislation that generates “at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need,” and to leverage funds by partnering with state and local governments and, in some cases, the private sector to permanently fix the nation’s infrastructure deficit.
“Together, we can reclaim our building heritage,” Trump said. “We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways across our land. And we will do it with American heart, American hands and American grit.”
In a statement posted late Tuesday on his official website, Michigan Republican Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, said by working together in a bipartisan fashion, Congress can rebuild “the nation’s vital infrastructure.”
“A 21st century infrastructure plan should include vital updates in the 1st District of Michigan, namely rural broadband and building a new Poe-sized lock in Sault Ste. Marie,” Bergman said. “Expanding high-speed broadband will invigorate our rural communities, and this is critical to ensuring the 1st District remains an area where families can live, work and receive a quality education.”
Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, who serves as ranking member of the Senate’s Surface Transportation Subcommittee, said in an email statement issued late Tuesday he is focused on promoting federal investment in the modernization of Michigan roads, bridges and ports as well as expanding rural broadband networks.
“A robust infrastructure package has the potential to drive innovation and create good-paying jobs in Michigan and across the country,” Peters said. “Although President Trump campaigned on a promise to improve infrastructure, I’m concerned that his barebones infrastructure proposal lacks meaningful federal investments and instead forces cash-strapped state and local governments to make up for the lack of strong federal support or shifts the burden to American people through tolls and fees.”
Peters said his goal is to craft a forward-looking bill that will make significant investment in critical infrastructure without undercutting fair wages.
“Moving forward, I hope that the president and Republicans in Congress will work in a bipartisan way to address these important economic issues,” Peters said.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow said in her Tuesday statement that she sent a letter to Trump outlining priorities in any federal infrastructure package developed by Congress or the White House.
“At a time when America is deeply divided, it is more important than ever that members of Congress from both parties come together to tackle the big challenges facing our nation,” Stabenow said. “I hope President Trump will make good on his commitment tonight to work with both Democrats and Republicans to pass bipartisan legislation that will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and support hard-working American families.”
Bergman touted the reduction in tax rates for “90 percent of Americans” that will “allow job growth throughout the 1st District.”
He also reacted to Trump’s comments about the national opioid crisis, and reinforced his pledge to work with Michigan communities to find a “multifaceted approach” to battle the epidemic.
“Rural communities within the 1st District are disproportionally affected by this epidemic, with no signs of that diminishing,” Bergman said. “I’m appreciative of the administration’s commitment in the past on this issue, but I will continue to encourage a more vigorous and engaged approach in the days ahead.”
Peters expressed concerns about wages, trade laws and helping small businesses.
“Ensuring workers can earn middle class wages should be part of a comprehensive approach to economic growth that includes boosting our manufacturing sector and fighting unfair trade practices,” he said.
Stabenow, who recently introduced the Veteran’s Deserve Better Act “to address serious problems with the federal Veteran’s Choice Program,” called health care for veterans a long-standing priority. The legislation would give veterans access to the same preventative health insurance coverage as the general public.
“We cannot take our values as a country or the people who keep us safe for granted,” Stabenow said. “I remain committed to working with Republicans, Democrats and the White House to get things done for Michigan families.”
Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.