“There is no single un-reported or under-reported number on the balance sheets of state and local governments greater than the value of deferred maintenance of infrastructure,” according to Edward Mazur, senior advisor to the accounting firm Clifton Larson Allen and one-time member of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board.
It’s hard to understand how cities and states can manage their assets effectively without clear data about the amount of deferred maintenance accumulated. Consider: About one in nine of America’s bridges are “structurally deficient.” (This doesn’t mean the bridges are unsafe, but it does mean engineers have to inspect them every year because at least one load-carrying part is in poor condition.) Potholes blossom like malicious dandelions on the nation’s roads. Every time a government puts off maintenance on its infrastructure, the cost of rehabilitating those assets grows larger, like a credit card bill on which the holder makes only the minimum payment each month.