WILLMAR — U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach said she supports some aspects of the White House’s new infrastructure package, like expanding broadband, but is more cautious regarding electric vehicle spending.
She spoke Tuesday morning during a town hall meeting hosted by state Rep. Dave Baker.
The town hall, held by Zoom video conferencing software, also featured questions from participants for Baker, R-Willmar, and state Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, who was also at the meeting.
Fischbach, a Republican who represents Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District, talked about which parts of President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure plan, called the American Jobs Plan, that she supports and which she opposes.
The plan rings up to about $2 trillion in traditional infrastructure like road, bridges and energy but also nontraditional infrastructure spending like expanding and supporting the electric vehicle market, expanding high-speed broadband and putting money toward upgrading and building new schools.
“I’ve been a big proponent of broadband,” Fischbach said, adding that the pandemic has shown the need for broadband infrastructure.
Fischbach said legislation at the federal level lacks the detail state legislation has, with bills often being passed and given to the specific government department to hash out the details.
“Some of these programs get to a point and there’s details that we don’t even recognize, and they’re administering these rules that they came up with on the department level,” Fischbach said.
Though Fischbach said she is in support of expanding broadband in the bill, she is critical of other nontraditional expenditures regarding electric cars.
“There’s more money in (the bill) for (electric vehicle) charging stations than there is for actual roads and bridges,” Fischbach said, adding that if there’s a need for charging stations, it should be taken up by the private sector.
Biden’s plan does have more money outlined for expanding the electric vehicle market, at about $174 billion, compared to funding for roads, bridges and highways, which sits at about $115 billion, but the spending for electric vehicle market includes tax incentives to encourage people to purchase electric vehicles, transitioning transit and school buses from diesel to electric, expanding production tax credits for private investments in the industry, as well as giving incentives to state and local governments to build electric vehicle charging stations, according to NPR.
“We will watch the infrastructure bill because there’s so much in there that’s not infrastructure, roads and bridges, broadband — the kind of things that we know,” Fischbach said. “So we’ll be watching that as it makes its way through.”
During the town hall, Fischbach also said she opposes a federal minimum wage, saying that often it isn’t needed. She has spoken to businesses in her district that are already at or near the $15-an-hour proposed wage for entry-level jobs.
“We need to provide that flexibility for businesses and employers so that they can meet their needs and meet the needs of their employees,” Fischbach said.
In response to a question from the audience, Fischbach said she wasn’t sure about restructuring Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits — also called SNAP or food stamps.
“We’ve had a couple of hearings on socially disadvantaged farmers and climate change but we haven’t had any real, I guess, specific kinds of discussions about policies,” Fischbach said. “At some point maybe there will be a discussion about that.”
As far as student loan forgiveness, Fischbach said she does not support those plans.
“We’re kind of dumping money into this short-term solution,” Fischbach said. “What happens for the freshmen that start college next year or the year after that or the year after that?”
Fischbach said she’s talked about restructuring some of the loans and counseling students and parents before they make a decision on which school to attend, highlighting the fact that attending a two-year college before starting at a four-year college is often less expensive.
“I don’t think it does the students any favors either by teaching them ‘Hey, the government will come and bail you out,’” Fischbach said.