RCBJ Perspectives: How to Pay for Biden’s Infrastructure Bill – at No Cost to US Taxpayers

Originally published in the Fall 2021 Regional Center Business Journal

by Michael Halloran, Group Head of Technology Strategy, JTC Americas

Debates around how to pay for President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan will continue to heat up as Congress works through the legislative process – especially with experts saying that the proposed funding sources are “optimistic at best, and…at worst, smoke and mirrors.”

The good news? There’s a way to generate up to $2 trillion in revenue over the next decade through existing processes and infrastructures without raising taxes or hiking up deficits. To sweeten the deal, this plan would also create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Here’s how it works.

Look to EB-5

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is a federal visa program that allows immigrants and their families to secure US residency by investing $500K – $1M in a U.S. business that creates or preserves 10 full-time jobs. In the last ten years, EB-5 has proven itself to be one of the most prolific job creation programs ever developed by the US government – extrapolating results from a Department of Commerce Study, from 2012 to 2016, it powered 6.9% of all US job growth – at no cost to taxpayers.

Through successful public-private partnerships, EB-5 has helped rebuild the Hudson Yards, the Port of Baltimore, and hospitals, airports, bridges, schools, and fire stations around the country.

Though some critics point to instances of fraud and theft by project sponsors, EB-5 has an extensive regulatory framework that makes it much safer than most programs (or private projects): money from foreign parties goes through extensive anti-money laundering / know your customer examinations and Office of the Comptroller requirements, followed by inspections by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS); later, when the capital is pooled together in funds, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) also have oversight.

Although the EB-5 Regional Center program recently expired (with possible reauthorization under consideration by Congress), retooling its processes, regulatory oversight, and compliance mechanisms represent a real opportunity to fund Biden’s infrastructure plan…

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