Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed a plan to rebuild U.S. infrastructure that costs “at least double” the amount that Hillary Clinton has floated, in what would amount to a massive new government program.
Asked on Fox Business Network how much he'd spend, the Republican presidential nominee said, “Well, I would say at least double her numbers, and you're going to really need more than that. We have bridges that are falling down. I don't know if you've seen the warning charts, but we have many, many bridges that are in danger of falling.”
Clinton's plan, which is estimated to cost $275 billion over five years, calls for setting up a national infrastructure bank to help fund large-scale projects, an idea that President Barack Obama advanced only to see it stall for lack of Republican support.
Trump was vague when asked how he'd pay for his much larger plan.
“We'll get a fund. We'll make a phenomenal deal with the low interest rates,” he said. Who would provide the money? “People, investors. People would put money into the fund. The citizens would put money into the fund,” he said, adding that he'd use “infrastructure bonds from the country, from the United States.”
The practicality of such a proposal, which would be debt-financed, calls into question Trump's prior promises to reduce the national debt, although he has been slippery on how quickly he would do so. In the same interview, Trump said that unlike his opponent, he wouldn't raise taxes.
“I'm doing the biggest tax decrease,” he said.
U.S. spending is projected to fall about $1.4 trillion short of the $3.3 trillion needed through 2025 for airports, highways and other infrastructure, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. While Obama spurred spending on public works by helping cover the interest on about $188 billion of state and local debt, the program lapsed in 2010. Democrats have been unable to revive it because of Republican opposition in Congress.
The political viability of a massive new infrastructure plan is also doubtful, as Republicans have spent years battling new taxes and government spending. Trump's remarks received immediate pushback on the right.
Asked to comment, House Speaker Paul Ryan's office said he was more focused on his policy plans than Trump's.
“The Speaker is focused on the House GOP’s ‘Better Way’ agenda,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in an e-mail.
Rory Cooper, a Republican strategist who opposes Trump, called his proposal “essentially the Obama stimulus argument” and added in a Twitter post, “Half trillion tax dollars toward mythical projects to ‘create jobs.’ Nearly every Republican member of Congress voted against this in 2009.”
On financing infrastructure, “everyone agrees we need to do it,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, during a panel last week held on the sidelines of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. “But nobody wants to pay for it.”
—With assistance from Romy Varghese.