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Biden touts infrastructure accomplishments, defends tax policy

President Biden on Tuesday urged county officials to put federal stimulus dollars to work investing in affordable housing among other things, while also touting his tax policy and infrastructure accomplishments. 

Biden made his comments at the National Association of Counties conference in Washington. Biden is fresh off a well-received State of the Union Address in which he struck a recurring theme of “finishing the job.”

“In Maricopa County, Arizona, we helped build a new bridge over the the Holly River,” Biden said Tuesday. “In Washoe County, Nevada we’re spending $89 billion to add several lanes to U.S. 395. In Maryland in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County we’re replacing dirty diesel buses.” 

The President highlighted the $350 billion funneled into local governments via the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan that now has some states slashing taxes in response to the surpluses it created.   

In addition to infrastructure investments Biden called out counties using funds for investments beyond the hardships.

“We urge you to use rescue plan money to make your community safer,” he said. “Invest in affordable housing, get small businesses back on their feet, train your workforce.” 

Biden highlighted efforts in Travis County, Texas and Pierce County, Washington, for using stimulus money to invest in affordable housing and workforce training. Ramsey County, Minnesot, got a nod for investing in childcare and healthcare.   

Addressing changes in tax policy that affect the muni market, the president tried to allay fears about the extra Treasury agents that will be funded via the $71 billion budget hike for the Internal Revenue Service.

Muni experts are predicting more audits and the House Ways and Means Committee has already tried killing the legislation. The President is eyeing more income. “The CBO says by doing away with those extra agents, we’re going to cost the American public another $114 billion in lost revenue,” he said. 

Biden defended the corporate minimum tax which kicks in this year. He bemoaned the failed effort during the Clinton Administration to cap executive pay but instead spawned massive stock buybacks that are now taxed by the Inflation Reduction Act. The President derided recent moves by House Republicans who recently introduced a plan to make the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanent. 

The 2017 legislation is notorious in the muni world for eliminating advance refunding. Bipartisan efforts to restore it are underway, but haven’t made much headway in prior years.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also addressed the county representatives. She echoed many of the same themes as the chief executive while touting additional examples of infrastructure successes. “Lewis and Clark County in Montana is expanding its water wells and upgrading its piping systems,” she said. “This is helping ensure that its residents have more consistent access to drinking water.” 

As the fine details of new laws affecting public finance come into focus Yellen laid out ongoing challenges. “Laws don’t implement themselves,” she said. “Turning a law into action requires close partnership between the federal government, state and local governments, workers and unions, businesses, and nonprofits.”  

She also brought moves to strengthen municipal pension plans into focus. “One of the most underappreciated achievements in the Rescue Plan was securing pension benefits for millions of workers and retirees,” said Yellen. “Prior to the law over 200 pension plans were on pace to become insolvent.” 

The Secretary backed up Biden’s call for Congressional action to maintain the country’s credit rating. “I’ve asked Congress to raise or suspend the debt limit,” she said. “It should do so without conditions, and it should not wait until the last minute. Since 1789, the United States has paid all our bills on time, and it should stay that way.”  

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