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Texas This Week: White House economist weighs in on President Biden's infrastructure plan

President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators announced they reached the "framework" to build out the president's infrastructure plan.

AUSTIN, Texas — In this edition of Texas This Week, White House economic advisor Jared Bernstein talks with KVUE about the president's infrastructure plan and how it will impact Texans. 

Three things to know in Texas politics

Vice President Kamala Harris visits Texas

Vice President Kamala Harris was in Texas this week visiting the Texas-Mexico border. The vice president traveled to El Paso Friday where she toured the El Paso Border Patrol Station then held a roundtable discussion with leaders of faith-based organizations, shelters and legal service providers. Vice President Harris noted her immigration work in Guatemala and Mexico where she met with leaders to try to understand the root issue that prompts migration to the U.S. Harris said she approaches the work on immigration with two principles – one, understanding most migrants don't want to leave home, and two, that the U.S. has the capacity to give people hope and a belief that help is on the way.  

   

Texas Democratic lawmakers sue Gov. Greg Abbott 

Democratic state representatives are asking the Texas Supreme Court to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott's veto of Article X of the state budget, the part that funds the Legislature. Abbott vetoed Article X in reaction to House Democrats breaking quorum on the last day to pass bills. The move killed the Republican-backed election reform bill, Senate Bill 7. In his veto statement, Gov. Abbott wrote "funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early." But under the Texas Constitution, the lawmakers will still get paid. It's the more than 2,000 Capitol employees who will lose pay and insurance if the article isn't reinstated by Sept. 1, the date the new budget goes into effect. Abbott said the defeat of SB7 would trigger a special session and we now know the date. The governor announced this week the special will start on July 8. 

   

Texans split on re-electing Gov. Abbott

This week, a Quinnipiac University Poll revealed how Texas voters feel about the 2022 gubernatorial election. Forty-six percent of Texas voters said Gov. Abbott deserves to be reelected and 48% disagree. The numbers are well within the 3% margin of error, which means people are really split. As for other potential candidates, 41% of voters said they want to see former Texas Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke run for governor while 52% don't. There's also chatter about actor Matthew McConaughey. Forty-one percent of Texas voters say they want to see him run, 47% don't and 13% are undecided. 

White House economic advisor Jared Bernstein

This week, President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators announced they reached the "framework" to build out the president's infrastructure plan. It's part of the president's initiative to strengthen the American economy. But how will all this impact you? For that answer, KVUE talked with White House economic advisor Jared Bernstein.   

Ashley Goudeau: You are one of our country's leading economists. So I want to ask you first, what, in your opinion, is the most significant obstacle standing in the way of pandemic recovery for the American economy? 

Jared Bernstein: "Well, I would say that the pandemic recovery is well underway. The rescue plan has been extremely effective in getting shots in arms and checks in pockets, hitting vaccination goals way ahead of schedule, especially initially. And now what we see, people are reengaging with commerce across the country. In Texas and in Austin, we see this swell of people reengaging in face-to-face services, people coming back to the job market. You know, we added 2 million jobs in this country, the first four months of the Biden administration. That's an historical record. So I would say the recovery is underway. What this president envisions is not just getting to the other side of the crisis, but building back better. And that takes us to the infrastructure framework that he's been so aggressively and successfully negotiating over."

Goudeau: And so, the obstacle then would be what, in your opinion?

Bernstein: "Well, I think the obstacle is just getting people to work together, to cooperate with each other. Remember, we're trying to compete in a global economy. Our competitors are not Democrats and Republicans. It's China and other global competitors. And so we need to work together to make sure that this president's vision of an economy with just a whole set of great opportunities for middle-class working families comes to fruition."

Goudeau: So how is the president's vision going to come to fruition? He has a plan in place. Talk to us a little bit more about it, the practical things that people in our area would see happening if he is able to execute his plan. 

Bernstein: "Well, he's in the process of executing his plan. So I worked for Joe Biden for a long time and he is a master negotiator. He knows how to reach across the aisle. And frankly, that's what a lot of Americans have wanted him to do. He got 81 million votes by telling America, 'I know how to work with Washington to get things done for middle-class working families.' So we have a framework now that invests in roads and bridges, but also in public transit, in passenger and freight rail, in electric vehicles and clean energy infrastructure. So how will people see it? Well, their public transit, which in many places had just been significantly disinvested in, in recent decades, will get a solid boost of investment to help people more productively go about their day and their work. At the same time, when you think about investments in electric vehicle infrastructure, say charging stations, those are good jobs. Often case, good union jobs that pay well. So it's that kind of investments that deliver for the American people."

Goudeau: When we talk about the deal, the framework being agreed upon for the infrastructure plan, the president saying that both sides had to make some concessions, what are some of the concessions he had to make?  

Bernstein: "Well, the president's initial jobs plan was twice the magnitude of the framework that was agreed to. But I think it's also important to realize that he said, he talked about dual tracks. That is, he talked about working this plan very much in the spirit of bipartisan compromise. Again, I think the American people want to see members of Congress and the White House working together to achieve goals that will give them a stronger, more productive economy with more and better job opportunities. And that's happening as we speak. We're in the midst of a robust jobs recovery. But at the same time, there are other elements that weren't in the plan – housing, education, pre-K and child and elder care – and he will continue to pursue those goals on separate tracks."

Goudeau: You know, when we talk about this plan, the framework has quite the price tag, $1.2 trillion. And I think the big question people want to know when they hear that number is, how are we going to pay for it?  

Bernstein: "Right. So the set of pay-fors that were released in the framework are fairly extensive. I'll focus on one in particular because it comes right from the president's Families Plan, this is plucked out of a plan that he very much guided us through, and that is, something I think, is going to appeal to a lot of people when they learn about it – increased tax compliance. That is giving the IRS, the Internal Revenue Service, the resources they need to collect taxes on people above $400,000. So remember, the president has a line in the sand, a pledge that taxes won't go up for anyone with incomes below $400,000. But part of that is making sure that people pay the taxes they owe. There's a lot of tax evasion over that level, having to do with these kind of obscure types of business income that often get underreported. So by improving tax compliance and funding the IRS to go after tax evaders, that helps pay for this plan."

Goudeau: And what about your average, middle-income American, your middle-income Texan? And are they going to see any impact when it comes to their taxes to pay for the plan?

Bernstein: "Certainly no tax increases. In fact, the average middle-class family, especially if they have kids, are seeing tax cuts. And those tax cuts come from a measure that was in the American Rescue Plan that is legislated, it's in the field, people are seeing this now, and this is the child tax credit. That's what I'm referring to. The president insisted that we significantly raise this tax credit that goes to families with kids and raise it, especially for families with kids under 6, because we all know how expensive that is to raise a family that way. Not only did he legislate that plan – which again is in play, it's in the economy, people are getting those checks – he made sure that people will get this. For the first time people will get those checks on a monthly basis starting in July, and that is a real advance, not just in economic policy, but in the implementation of that policy. By the way, the tax, this increase in the child tax credit, has been found to reduce America's child poverty by half. So not only is this an important plan to help people get by in the near term, it's a deep investment in the lives of kids."

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