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Bipartisan ‘Infrastructure’ Bill Includes $250 Million for Invasive Plant Program

A large patch of Kudzu quickly takes over a parking lot. (Atlantagreg/Getty Images)

The bipartisan infrastructure package pending in the Senate allocates $250 million to the Invasive Plant Elimination program, providing grants to states to clear invasive plant species that obstruct or line roads, highways, railroads, or other ground-level transportation routes.

According to the provision’s language, $50,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026, totaling $250 million in tax-payer money, will be appropriated to execute the program.

To be eligible to receive funds, states must submit an application detailing to their plans to “eliminate or control existing invasive plants or prevent introduction of or encroachment by new invasive plants along and in areas adjacent to transportation corridor rights-of-way.”

Preferential treatment will be given to applicants that plan to replace the removed vegetation with native flowers and plants, “including those that are pollinator friendly.”

A percentage of each grant is expected to go to administrative costs such as employee salaries and insurance as well as equipment. Each state that receives a grant is required to draft an annual report accounting for use of the funds.

The bill’s obscure earmark for a state-level public landscaping project lends credibility to some Republicans’ concerns that the Biden-backed infrastructure plan could degenerate into a wasteful legislative boondoggle. Many Republican lawmakers have decried the nearly trillion-dollar price tag of the bill, a shrunken version of Biden’s original proposal valued at a whopping $4 trillion.

While the plan has been touted as crucial money source for rebuilding the nation’s allegedly crumbling physical infrastructure, from public transit to broadband internet, the inclusion of the invasive plant program challenges that assertion.

In May, Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell suggested Republicans would be interested in passing a smaller infrastructure bill with a $800 billion ceiling. After receiving partisan pressure, however, Senate Republicans countered Democrats’ $4 trillion spending plan with a nearly $1 trillion proposal. Since then, a bipartisan coalition of 22 senators has been ironing out the bill’s stipulations, amendments, compromises, and concessions. The final text was released Sunday and is expected to go to the Senate floor for a vote within the next week.

Surpassing the length of the mammoth Affordable Care Act spearheaded by the Obama administration, the infrastructure bill’s text stands at 2,702 pages.

Democrats are expected to follow the $1 trillion infrastructure package with a $3.5 trillion spending bill to fund progressive wishlist items such as subsidized childcare and expanded medicare coverage. The bill will likely be passed via budget reconciliation without GOP support.

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