The president underscored local transit efforts and PFAS issues as he took his plan to the public.
Speaking Tuesday in La Crosse, President Joe Biden promoted the bipartisan infrastructure deal he and a group of moderate senators announced last week, highlighting the billions of dollars it would put toward roads and bridges, mass transit, lead pipe remediation, and broadband expansion.
“Today, the American people can be proud. Democrats and Republicans, families in Wisconsin can be proud,” Biden said in remarks delivered at the La Crosse Municipal Transit Authority.
He added, “There’s nothing, nothing, nothing beyond our capacity when we come together as one nation.”
The deal, which is greatly slimmed down from Biden’s initial proposal, would replace all of the nation’s lead pipes, expand passenger rail systems, improve broadband access, and more. The White House says the bill would create millions of jobs.
It would also put more federal funding into public transit and remediation of “forever chemicals” that break down in the environment slowly and contaminate dozens of water sources across Wisconsin.
Transit and forever-chemical remediation are two high-priority issues in La Crosse.
The city is one of several around the state that are making their transit systems more environmentally friendly by acquiring low- and no-emission buses.
La Crosse is also one of the places in Wisconsin most severely affected by PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) water contamination. On French Island, all 1,200 private water wells have been contaminated from years of firefighting foam used in training exercises, and now all 4,300 of the island’s residents must use bottled water.
“It’s a problem all across the country, and I know that you’re feeling it right here in La Crosse County,” Biden said.
A federal program could be necessary to help Wisconsin communities clean up PFAS, as a state-level bill that would establish a remediation grant program has come under fire from Democrats and environmental groups because the Republican proposal would prohibit any community that receives a grant from suing the people responsible for the contamination.
Biden said he will also continue fighting for his “human infrastructure”-focused American Families Plan that would provide universal pre-kindergarten and two years of free technical college, create a national paid leave program, and extend the child tax credit that provides an up to $3,600 tax break for families with children.
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In a speech before Biden delivered his address, Gov. Tony Evers said the infrastructure plan along with American Families Plan will be key to Wisconsin and the nation’s ongoing COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts.
“We have to see how each issue in our state and country affects all of them,” Evers said.
When Biden’s visit was announced last week, he was initially set to travel to Wisconsin alongside Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to visit farms and discuss agricultural issues. However, the White House changed plans after Biden announced the bipartisan infrastructure deal.
Tuesday was Biden’s first Wisconsin visit since a February town hall in Milwaukee. Vice President Kamala Harris visited UW-Milwaukee in May to promote Biden’s original infrastructure proposal.