Missing Infrastructure Tools for Cities
Through no fault of their own, cities could lose out on critical infrastructure funding simply because they do not have access to “self-help” tools.
Some localities can tap into “self-help” local revenue-raising and financing mechanisms, such as local sales tax, local income tax and public-private partnerships, yet many cannot due to structural and state limitations.
With our nation’s road, transit, water and other infrastructure in critical need of repair, new federal infrastructure investment is welcome news. While cities raise significant funding for infrastructure already, there is a gap left by rapid deterioration of existing infrastructure assets and an increasing need for new and expanded systems. This, matched with a receding federal partnership and limitations on the types of tools avail- able to cities to fund and finance infrastructure, requires that Congress’ new infrastructure investment proposal.
A complex array of state laws prevent cities of all sizes from using local funding and financing measures without state authorization. To illustrate these missing tools, we’ve collected details on 15 sample cities’ authority to use four common taxes and public-private partnerships. Some cities are missing all of these tools. However, even if a city technically has access to a funding source it may not work for infrastructure or be adjustable to accommodate more investment. This exercise shows a very different ability to “self-help” from city to city raising fair questions about how to compete for funding in an infrastructure package that prioritizes it.