Congressman O’Halleran touts bipartisan infrastructure package as victory for rural and tribal communities
Arizona Representative Tom O’Halleran, who represents Arizona’s largely rural 1st Congressional District, defended the new federal bipartisan infrastructure package as a victory for rural Arizonans in an appeal to the press on Thursday.
Joined by State Senator Jamescita Peshlakai, D-LD7, and State Representative Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren, D-LD7, the congressman predicted that the bill could reach the floor of the House of ‘here a week.
“Arizona will receive $ 5 billion” from this new infrastructure package, O’Halleran said. He said he is committed to ensuring that these funds are distributed fairly and equitably.
Rural investment in broadband
Having worked for years on the issue of rural broadband access, O’Halleran seemed relieved that the bill included investments in broadband.
“We [project] that about 14% [of Arizonans], and I think more, live in areas without broadband infrastructure, ”he said.
The current 2,700-page draft of the bipartisan infrastructure proposal includes at least $ 100 million in broadband investment for Arizona. The bill also allocates $ 2 billion across the country to invest in broadband access for tribal communities.
“Just as the federal government made a historic effort to provide electricity to every home in America almost 100 years ago, this infrastructure package will work to ensure that every home in Arizona has access to high-speed internet. and reliable, ”O’Halleran said.
State Representative Blackwater-Nygren said she was confident this package could finally respond to tribal calls to invest in the infrastructure that Arizona’s tribal communities have long sought.
Blackwater-Nygren said the tribes “have been asking for adequate infrastructure investments for decades. Not for years, but for decades.
Tribal lands can often lack cell service, “let alone the Internet,” O’Halleran said.
“This digital divide is even more pronounced on tribal lands, which can often lack solid basic coverage, let alone broadband,” he said. “Only half of the residents who live on tribal lands have fixed home internet service – half. It’s not acceptable.
Twenty-five percent of CD1’s population is Native American, with its district encompassing the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Reservation, and the Gila River Indian community.
“Monsoons and flash floods have exposed cracks in our infrastructure,” said Blackwater-Nygren, citing an incident several weeks ago in which a tribal member drowned in a flood.
As climate change worsens, O’Halleran believes infrastructure investments will become even more critical. He said the country must “face … climate change in the process” of investing in US infrastructure.
Massachusetts Senator Joe Markey, D, architect of the Green New Deal, complaints that the proposed package is “a good start”, but that Democrats “will tackle the climate crisis in the scale, scope and scale that are needed” in a 3.5 trillion follow-up infrastructure package of dollars.
O’Halleran highlighted the climate, as well as other interests.
“We need to make sure we have good paying jobs to support our families, which is necessary to support our children and their children, and tackle climate change in the process,” he said. “I commend the president, his leadership and his steadfast hand in helping the deal cross the finish line in a bipartisan fashion.”
The infrastructure package is the product of bipartisan negotiations led by Republican Senator from Ohio, Rob Portman, and Democratic Senator from Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema.
A member of House Problem Solver Caucus, which is “an independent group led by members of Congress, made up of representatives from across the country – split evenly between Democrats and Republicans – determined to find common ground on many key issues facing the nation,” said said Rep. O’Halleran. enthusiastic about the bill being bipartisan.
He called on members of both parties in the House and Senate to support the package when it comes to a vote.
“I know Democrats and Republicans have shown, quietly or publicly, that there is an obligation to do this. And I ask my colleagues in the House from both parties to support the bill when it arrives in our chamber.