As a “dorm room debate” rages in Washington over how to define infrastructure Floridians are weighing in too. Their idea? Natural infrastructure.
The poll comes as Democrats in Washington are hoping to push through a nearly $2 trillion dollar infrastructure plan they’re calling the American Jobs Plan. The deal has so far gone nowhere in the Senate.
A new poll shows a majority of Floridians think infrastructure improvements in the plan should include measures to deal with the effects of climate change or natural infrastructure investments to build resiliency and lower the costs of climate-driven extreme weather events.
EDF Action, the advocacy partner of the Environmental Defense Fund, commissioned Morning Consult to conduct the survey.
Three-quarters of respondents support funding natural infrastructure as part of the American Jobs Plan, with 66% of independents and 53% of Republicans in favor, as well as 75% of coastal respondents and 76% of inland respondents.
Natural infrastructure solutions to reduce flood risk, such as restored beaches, wetlands and marshes, were supported by 86% of respondents, including 82% of independents, 81% of Republicans, 87% of coastal respondents and 88% of inland respondents.
A majority of respondents viewed hurricanes and flooding as a problem in the US. Nearly 80% of respondents said the costs of clean up and recovery have increased.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents supported preventive measures to reduce the impact of natural disasters before they occur. The party breakdown showed support from 97% of Democrats, 83% of independents and 79% of Republicans. There was little divide among rural and suburban respondents. Eighty-five percent of suburban respondents supported preventative measures, compared to 84% of rural respondents.
But in Washington, Republicans want to remain conservative with spending on the infrastructure plan. They put forth their own infrastructure plan just shy of $1 trillion.
Both sides are sparring over how to define infrastructure with Republicans only supporting “hard infrastructure” like bridges and roads. Meanwhile Democrats are hoping to throw in other “human infrastructure” projects like health care.
The conundrum was dubbed a “dorm room debate” by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg while making the rounds on the Sunday news shows last month.
But no official text has been released for either side’s plan. Each side has only released a general outline of what the plan would include, so its not clear if Floridians would get their natural infrastructure.
One Washington lobbyist indicated parts of the Democrat’s plan could include what Floridians are seeking. Speaking at a Florida-specific conference on infrastructure last week, Michael Berson, a Washington-based lobbyist from Adams and Reese who has clients focused on the federal infrastructure plan, said that while the detailed text for the infrastructure plan has not been released, President Joe Biden’s recent “skinny” budget proposal, an initial budget request that is traditionally light on details, should shed clues about infrastructure items that could affect Florida.
For example, Berson said, the budget includes items to address climate change, such as home retrofits, weatherization, pre-disaster planning and electric vehicle infrastructure, something Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault said is a priority for the Sunshine State.