Congress must move two infrastructure bills forward to help local governments and residents recover from the pandemic, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Monday.

“Investing in our recovery can be done without politics,” he said. “And how can I be so confident in saying that? Because a bipartisan coalition of Texas mayors recognize that these pieces of legislation will only improve our communities and the quality of life for all of our people.”

Mayor Ron Nirenberg joined three other Texas mayors for a virtual news conference Monday morning to urge Congress to pass the Build Back Better bill and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The former, also known as the “human infrastructure” bill, is a spending package dedicated to social programs and policies such as increasing the child tax credit and lower prescription drug costs. The size of the spending plan has made it controversial, so its overall cost has shrunk in an attempt to persuade hesitant lawmakers to support it. The latter has broad bipartisan support and covers traditional infrastructure projects, like roads, bridges, and transportation projects. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that she expects an agreement on the Build Back Better plan this week, as well as a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The news conference by the state’s Big City Mayors group also included Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope, who expressed their hope that Congress would move forward with the infrastructure bills.

Pope focused on the bipartisan bill that would fund physical infrastructure projects.

“We need to get it done,” he said. “I think America needs to see Washington work and I think this is a great opportunity for them to do something that benefits all of us.”

Adler said he hopes to leverage funding from the infrastructure bills to bolster Austin’s underground rail project connecting its downtown to the airport. Pope advocated for expanding Interstate 27, which connects Lubbock to Amarillo, as well as broadband infrastructure in his community. And Nirenberg pointed to San Antonio’s Ready to Work program as a key area for federal investment. Voters last year approved moving a one-eighth-cent sales tax from aquifer protection and linear greenway trails to fund the four-year, $154 million workforce development program.

“The partnership with the federal government to help with that program will allow us to expand the impacts and ensure that a generation of San Antonians now will have access to economic mobility, one of the keys to breaking endemic cycles of generational poverty that have been gripping our city for a very long time,” he said.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.