WASHINGTON – House and Senate members have reintroduced companion bills that would allow state and local governments to issue up to $5 billion of private activity bonds to finance the repair or construction of schools and other public buildings under public-private partnership arrangements.
The "Public Buildings Renewal Act" was introduced in the House on Feb. 7 as H.R. 960 by Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and eight co-sponsors, including six members of the House Ways and Means Committee such as Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.
The measure in the Senate, which has not been assigned a number yet, is being introduced by Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., both of whom sit on the Senate Finance Committee.
The bills they introduced last session were H.R. 5361 and S. 3177.
The legislation would create a new category of tax-exempt PABs that would allow states and localities to construct or renovate government-owned buildings such as public schools, state colleges, post offices, libraries, prisons and courthouses with private parties.
These kinds of projects cannot currently be financed with tax-exempt P3s because there is not a specific qualified PAB category for bonds for public buildings.
"Our country's public buildings are in a historic state of disrepair and in need of a bold solution," Kelly said. "That's where the Public Buildings Renewal Act can come to the rescue."
"Congress has failed to display the political courage to adequately invest in infrastructure – from roads to light rail to schools and courthouses," said Blumenauer. "Our nation is literally falling apart and falling behind. We need an 'all of the above' approach to infrastructure funding and simple fixes to lower investment barriers are steps in the right direction."