It’s time to shake up Oregon’s infrastructure investment trend

Chuck Sheketoff

With campaign season in full swing, there’s no shortage of candidates talking about the need for quality jobs. Add that to headlines about a massive earthquake predicted to strike the Pacific Northwest, and you’d think Oregon would be investing heavily in upgrading our public infrastructure.

Instead, Oregon’s investment in infrastructure has been shrinking, relative to the size of the state’s economy.

That’s one of the findings of It’s Time for States to Invest in Infrastructure, a study published today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It shows that nationally, state and local spending as a share of gross domestic product (GDP, or “the economy”) is at a 30 year low. The study helps explain why the American Society of Civil Engineers rates the whole of U.S. infrastructure as a D+ or “poor.”

Oregon is no exception. Between fiscal years 2002 and 2013, Oregon state and local infrastructure investment as a share of GDP decreased. Oregon’s decline was the 14th greatest (worst) of all the states. In 2013, Oregon’s infrastructure investment made up just 4.2 percent of total state expenditures.

State infrastructure spending, as the study makes clear, is crucial to maintaining our nation’s bridges and roads. In fact, state and local governments “own over 90 percent of non-defense public infrastructure assets, and although the federal government assists in the building and maintenance of these assets, state and local governments pay 75 percent of the cost of maintaining and improving them.”

Maintaining and improving our public infrastructure is a worthwhile investment — a key point Oregon policymakers should recognize. Research shows targeted public infrastructure spending can boost the economy and improve a state’s quality of life, environment and economic opportunity. It does that by creating many high paying jobs.

Such investments can also help minimize the damage done to Oregonians from the massive earthquake that one day will rattle our region.

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at

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