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Trump Infrastructure Plan Fleshed Out in Budget

Friday, May 26, 2017

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President Donald J. Trump’s newly released budget proposal includes a closer look at the administration's infrastructure plan, which involves increased spending at the federal level that the president hopes will spawn four times as much private spending in order to fulfill a $1 trillion campaign promise.

Trump’s budget, which was unveiled Tuesday (May 23), proposes $200 billion in new federal spending on infrastructure in the next 10 years, as officials predicted earlier this month.

The president’s plan calls for a $5 billion expenditure in 2018, as proposed reforms and financing programs kick into gear. Federal spending would increase to $25 billion in 2019, $40 billion in 2020 and peak at $50 billion in 2021. Trump also would halt bailouts of the Highway Trust Fund and fill it with federal gas tax revenue; the result would be a $96 billion "drop-off" over 10 years.

A. Shaker / VOA, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

President Trump's budget proposal earmarks $200 billion in new federal spending on infrastructure in the next 10 years, which he hopes to use to leverage state, local and private spending and achieve the $1 trillion he promised while on the campaign trail.

Democrats blasted the proposal, saying Wall Street would benefit and the Department of Transportation—which would see its funds cut overall by $2.4 billion, or 13 percent, to $16.2 billion next year under the president’s budget—would suffer. A $200 billion spending plan, in their eyes, at best falls far short of Trump's campaign promise of $1 trillion for infrastructure, and at worst is simply rearranging existing money rather than making a new investment.

The White House said Trump would use taxpayer money to leverage investments by states, local governments and the private sector, for a total of $1 trillion in investment at the end of the day. The administration would also augment every dollar spent by streamlining permits, overhauling loan and cost-sharing programs, and cracking down on frivolous lawsuits that the administration says bog down construction.

Proposal Details

The White House released a six-page fact sheet Tuesday that gave a broad sketch of the initiative. The actual legislative package is expected to be presented later this year.

Trump’s plan calls for several privatization projects:

  • Airport traffic control would be corporatized.
     
  • The lines, towers, and substations of the Power Marketing Administration, which assists the government in selling hydroelectric power across the south and west, would be sold.
     
  • Tolls and private investment at rest stops on interstate highways would be implemented.
     
  • Congestion management strategies for urban area will be developed.

According to a study by the World Economic Forum, America’s highways, waterways and airports are in dire need of repair. U.S. infrastructure ranked 11th in the organization's latest Global Competitiveness Report, behind countries such as Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and France. 

Dissenting Views

Top Republican lawmakers are hoping the release of Trump’s budget to shore up the nation’s roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure will spur talks with Democratic leaders, who were disappointed by the steep cuts to the expenditures touted by Trump in his run to the presidency.

“We’re working on a bill. We think it’s important to do,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, whose panel has jurisdiction over infrastructure issues including waterways, ports, bridges, roads and other public works. “This is along the lines of what President Trump promised the country. … That’s why the first hearing I held as EPW chairman was on infrastructure.”

Barrasso’s panel has looked into funding options, considered ways to streamline the permit approval process, and weighed public- and private-sector roles in building infrastructure projects.

Cuts vs. Investment

Democratic lawmakers said that cuts to existing programs, including slicing federal funding for local transit projects, outstrip any proposed new spending.

“At best, this is just moving money around,” said Rep. John K. Delaney (D-Maryland), who has pushed for the past four years to introduce legislation that calls for additional infrastructure spending. “I think for every Democrat who looked at the Trump administration like I did, and hoped we could find common ground, this is a real punch in the gut.”

The office of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) released an analysis that cited $206 billion in proposed cuts to existing programs.

“President Trump’s campaign promises on infrastructure are crumbling faster than our roads and bridges,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “It makes us very dubious of any attempt to do infrastructure by this administration.

“We hope we’re wrong. But the budget is a document that tells where the real truth is in terms of administration beliefs, and they sure as heck by this budget don’t like infrastructure.”

The new budget, as foretold in Trump's "skinny budget" earlier this year, eliminates the DOT's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, which was created as part of the economic stimulus package in 2009 and gave "final-push" funding to state and local projects that were just short of full funding.

On May 17, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao gave the EPW updates on Trump’s rebuilding plan. She said a detailed legislative package won’t be released until the third quarter of this year—possibly in late September.

Work Continues

Barrasso said he might follow suit by introducing legislation this summer with his own infrastructure ideas, which are similar to his panel’s. By doing so, his legislation would be revealed before Trump’s infrastructure plan lands on Capitol Hill. 

WSDOT, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr

Top Republican lawmakers are hoping the release of Trump’s budget to shore up the nation’s roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure will spur talks with Democratic leaders, who were disappointed by the steep cuts to the expenditures touted by Trump in his run to the presidency.

But Barrasso is working closely with both the administration and EPW members to ensure his bill garners bipartisan support and falls in line with the White House’s vision.

Topping Barrasso’s list of priorities: ensuring that rural infrastructure needs are included in any rebuilding package.  

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said it was important to consider innovative ideas, but countered that Trump’s proposals required closer review.

“All solutions need to be on the table, because simply continuing with the status quo will not produce the infrastructure improvements our nation needs,” he said.

   

Tagged categories: Airports; Bridges; Budget; Department of Transportation (DOT); Government; Infrastructure; North America; President Trump; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways

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