Delaney: Building a more competitive America

US Congressman John Delaney tells us how his signature piece of legislation came about and what led him to leave behind a successful career in pursuit of public office.

“People are actually quite surprised to hear this sometimes – but this is actually a pretty entrepreneurial job because you can work on anything you want to,” John Delaney told Infrastructure Investor in our April 2014 keynote interview.

His response was both in reference to his current role as US Representative of Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, the second-largest in the Mid-Atlantic state, and his previous role as an entrepreneur.

While in the private sector, he founded HealthCare Financial Partners (HCFP) and co-founded CapitalSource.

HCFP provided loans to smaller healthcare providers, while CapitalSource lent money to small businesses throughout the country resulting in the Treasury Department recognising CapitalSource for lending to disadvantaged communities.

Both companies went public within three years of their launch, in 1993 and 2000 respectively, making Delaney the only former chief executive of a publicly-traded company serving in the House of Representatives.

“I wanted to do public service,” he replies when asked what prompted him to seek office, which he assumed in January 2013.

A few months later – in May – he introduced the Partnership to Build America Act, a bill that seeks to find alternatives to public funding for investment in infrastructure.

“I started looking at domestic economic policy: ‘Where can government really make a difference to drive growth and create an environment where the private sector can succeed?’” he says, recounting the thought process behind the bill.

“It was pretty clear to me that infrastructure investment should be our top economic priority because it creates jobs in the short term and the jobs actually provide for a decent standard of living,” he continues.

“It makes the country more competitive and I think we have a very significant competitiveness issue in this country.”

The bill calls for the creation of a $50 billion infrastructure bank that could finance up to $750 billion in new projects. It would be capitalised upfront through the sale of 50-year bonds and US companies would be incentivised to buy these bonds by being allowed to repatriate tax free a portion of their foreign earnings for every dollar spent on the bonds.

“Companies will look at this, they’ll calculate what the cost of buying these bonds is, they’ll equate that with an effective tax rate and they’ll essentially bid a tax rate,” Delaney explains.

The Congressman’s office recently announced that the Partnership to Build America Act now has 60 co-sponsors – 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans.

To read a full version of the interview, please click here.

Photography by William B. Plowman.