Mass. lawmakers could lead in boosting a bank for infrastructure

This letter from Chuck Grigsby, who is one of the Hub Public Banking group working for a Massachusetts infrastructure bank. 

April, 17, 2018

In “How should Boston fund its future?” (Opinion, April 10), with regard to infrastructure needs, Matthew Kiefer and Sam Tyler state, “Boston is mostly on its own.” They are correct, except Boston is hardly alone in facing this challenge. In a survey last year of 38 mayors and town managers across the entire state, 41 percent of respondents reported that they experienced difficulty raising financing for infrastructure, 54 percent reported that they had to defer critical projects, and 96 percent replied that they would be highly interested in an alternative to the private bond market.

A potent new addition to current financing sources is now under consideration in the Massachusetts Legislature. House bill 3543 would authorize the formation of a state-owned bank focused on providing lower-cost infrastructure financing across the state. It’s drafted to become self-sufficient after initial capitalization and especially to avoid competing with banks and credit unions in the state.

Similar bills for publicly owned banks have been filed in New Jersey, Michigan, and Alaska. Feasibility studies are underway in St. Louis; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Berkeley, Calif.; and Seattle. Other cities reviewing their options are Chicago, Santa Fe, and Baltimore.

Over the last several decades, the Legislature has led the way nationally in creating more than 11 quasipublic funding sources structured to meet specific needs. It’s poised to lead again.

Charles T. Grigsby
Jamaica Plain

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