President Trump released his long-awaited infrastructure plan, which states his administration’s legislative goals to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. It includes six principles:
- $200 billion in federal funds to spur at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments with partners at the state, local, tribal, and private level.
- New investments will be made in rural America, which has been left behind for too long.
- Decision making authority will be returned to state and local governments.
- Regulatory barriers that needlessly get in the way of infrastructure projects will be removed.
- Permitting for infrastructure projects will be streamlined and shortened.
- America’s workforce will be supported and strengthened.
The plan, light on specifics, certainly faces significant hurdles in Congress because it does not offer as much new federal funding as transportation advocates want – nor does it directly address how to pay for the effort.
The proposal also comes on the heels of a $1.5 trillion tax cut and a $300 billion spending measure signed by the president last week that will add to the federal budget deficit. Republicans have been wary of another big spending measure, especially with mid-term elections approaching in November.
“It’s a very welcome and necessary way to start a very overdue conversation on infrastructure investment,” said Michael W. Johnson, IOM, National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) president and CEO. “We look forward to more in-depth conversations with Congress as they create a bill, and we urge lawmakers to create a robust and long-term solution to our country’s chronically underfunded infrastructure. NSSGA supports a wide variety of funding options to shore up the Highway Trust Fund. America wants and needs strong infrastructure investment, and we need action now.”
Trump said the plan will lead to at least $1.5 trillion in investments to rebuild our failing infrastructure and develop innovative projects.
- $200 billion in federal funds will spur at least $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure investments.
- Federal infrastructure spending will promote state, local, and private investments and maximize the value of every taxpayer dollar.
- Of the $200 billion, $100 billion will create an Incentives Program to spur additional dedicated funds from states, localities and the private sector.
- Applications for the Incentives Program will be evaluated on objective criteria, with creating additional infrastructure investment being the largest factor. The Incentives Program will promote accountability, making federal funding conditional on projects meeting agreed upon milestones.
- $20 billion will be dedicated to the Transformative Projects Program. This program will provide federal aid for bold and innovative projects that have the potential to dramatically improve America’s infrastructure.The program will focus on projects that could have a significant positive impact on states, cities and localities but may not attract private sector investment because of the project’s unique characteristics.
- $20 billion will be allocated to expanding infrastructure financing programs. Of the $20 billion, $14 billion will go to expanding a number of existing credit programs: TIFIA, WIFIA, RRIF, and rural utility lending; $6 billion will go to expanding Private Activity Bonds; and $10 billion will go to a new Federal Capital Revolving Fund, which will reduce inefficient leasing of Federal real property which would be more cost-effective to purchase. The new fund will allow some incremental revenues from energy development on public lands to pay for the capital and maintenance needs of public lands infrastructure.
Rural America’s infrastructure has been left behind for too long, and Trump’s plan indicates it will be supported and modernized.
- $50 billion of the $200 billion in direct federal funding will be devoted to a new Rural Infrastructure Program to rebuild and modernize infrastructure in rural America.
- The bulk of the dollars in the Rural Infrastructure Program will be allocated to state governors, giving states the flexibility to prioritize their communities’ needs.
- The remaining funds will be distributed through rural performance grants to encourage the best use of taxpayer dollars.
President Trump’s proposal will return decision-making authority to state and local governments, which know the needs of their communities. Funds awarded to state and local authorities, such as through the Incentives Program and the Rural Infrastructure Program, will be allocated to infrastructure projects they prioritize. This empowers states and localities to make more infrastructure investment decisions and prioritize projects based on the needs of their communities.
The plan will expand processes that allow environmental review and permitting decisions to be delegated to states. The plan will also allow federal agencies to divest assets that can be better managed by state or local governments or the private sector. The president’s plan would also eliminate barriers that prevent virtually all infrastructure projects from being efficiently developed and managed.
The White House said the president’s plan will:
- Provide more flexibility to transportation projects that have minimal federal funding but are currently required to seek federal review and approval.
- Incentivize the efficient development and management of water infrastructure, in part, by providing more flexibility to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its partners.
- Give the Department of Veterans Affairs the flexibility to use its existing assets to acquire new facilities by allowing it to retain property sale proceeds and exchange existing facilities for construction of new facilities.
- Expand funding eligibility for land revitalization projects through the Superfund program and establish tools to help manage their legal and financial matters.
President Trump’s infrastructure proposal will shorten and simplify the approval process for infrastructure projects.
- Establish a “one agency, one decision” structure for environmental reviews.
- Shorten the lengthy environmental review process to two years while still protecting the environment.
- Eliminate certain redundant and inefficient provisions in environmental laws.
- Create two new pilot programs to test new ways to improve the environmental review process.
The president is proposing reforms so Americans secure good-paying jobs and meet the needs of our industries. The president’s plan would reform federal education and workforce development programs to better prepare Americans to perform the in-demand jobs of today and the future. This includes:
- Making high-quality, short-term programs that provide students with a certification or credential in an in-demand field eligible for Pell Grants.
- Reforming the Perkins Career and Technical Education Program to ensure more students have access to high-quality technical education to develop the skills required in today’s economy.
- Better targeting Federal Work-Study funds to help more students obtain important workplace experience, including through apprenticeships.
Other industry association leaders shared their thoughts on the proposal.
“Equipment manufacturers welcome the introduction of President Trump’s infrastructure proposal,” said Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) President Dennis Slater. “It should serve as an important starting point for serious debate in Congress, given that an overwhelming majority of Americans wants for Washington to act on infrastructure this year.
“The White House plan includes a number of important elements. Equipment manufacturers applaud the One Agency, One Decision initiative to reduce permitting time on projects to 24 months, as well as their request to create designated funds to support rural infrastructure development and transformative infrastructure projects. The industry is also encouraged by the inclusion of a proposal to help train our manufacturing and construction workforce in charge of building America’s infrastructure.
“However, the Trump administration’s proposal does not solve our nation’s underlying infrastructure issues, including the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and other programs to support our utility, water and aviation infrastructure,” Slater concluded. “We hope that Congress will take up and build upon the Trump administration’s infrastructure proposal on a bipartisan basis to help America reclaim its infrastructure advantage over our global competitors.”
“We commend the administration for focusing on the need to reinvest in America’s infrastructure,” said International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) executive director and CEO, Patrick D. Jones. “We also applaud the administration’s proposal to give states flexibility to toll interstate highways to help rebuild them. While tolling is not appropriate in every circumstance, it is a proven tool that speeds project delivery and provides a steady stream of funding for future road maintenance and improvements. We look forward to working closely with the administration and Congress on a robust plan to improve America’s vital transportation infrastructure.”
“I commend President Trump for focusing on rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” said Associated Equipment Distributors President Brian P. McGuire. “The administration’s proposal is just the start of the conversation. It’s now Congress’ responsibility to pass legislation that incorporates many of the principles outlined by the president combined with substantial, sustained investment and new revenue to provide long-term certainty to the construction industry. Americans are craving bipartisan leadership and this will show the country that Washington is serious about rebuilding our infrastructure. It’s time to turn words into action for America.”
The 31 national associations and trade union members that make up the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) said they are pleased to see the arrival of President Trump’s long-awaited infrastructure package and budget proposal put forward. “The Administration is wisely seeking to change the dialogue that has been largely absent in Washington for more than a decade and proposing something extra to current programs that aims to improve highway and transit infrastructure performance rather than the focus continuing on just maintaining current conditions,” the organization said in a statement. “The TCC also supports the President’s outlined efforts to identify procedural changes to accelerate the delivery of infrastructure projects as well as the expansion of programs to enhance state, local and private sector investment.
“At the same time the Administration seems to be taking two steps forward, it also takes one, or more, steps back. We oppose the simultaneous call for eliminating transit capital and other transportation construction grant programs put forward in the President’s FY 2019 budget. The same budget points out the need for a permanent resolution to the Highway Trust Fund’s fiscal instability, but falls short of proposing any meaningful solutions.
“All eyes are now on Congress to send to the President for his signature an infrastructure package, before the August recess, that both provides additional resources to help improve, not just maintain, our nation’s infrastructure. There is no better way to do just that than by passing a package that includes a permanent, growing, user-based Highway Trust Fund revenue solution. The TCC looks forward to working with Members of Congress in the coming weeks to help them do exactly that.”