Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Trump Ready to Release Infrastructure Plan Monday, Official SaysBy
White House offering principles to start legislative process
Plan is to spur investment and streamline project permitting
President Donald Trump expects to release on Monday his long-awaited plan to generate at least $1.5 trillion to upgrade U.S. roads, bridges, airports and other public works, according to a White House official.
The White House plans to release about 30 to 40 pages of principles to kick off the process for producing legislation. The release will outline Trump’s strategy to generate new investment, streamline the project review and permitting process to two years or less and provide funding for projects in rural areas, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss policy that hasn’t been publicly announced.
Administration officials have discussed allocating at least $200 billion over 10 years, with half going toward incentives to encourage states, localities and the private sector to raise and spend their own funds. The plan would also dedicate a quarter of federal money to rural areas and provide funding for “transformational” projects that can’t attract private financing, according to a fact sheet released Jan. 30 by the White House.
“Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit,” Trump said during his Jan. 30 State of the Union speech.
It’s unclear how Congress will respond or when, with mid-term elections approaching in November and lawmakers and the White House mired in fights about immigration and spending. House and Senate committees with jurisdiction have held multiple hearings on infrastructure issues but have been waiting for an administration proposal.
Trump has said he thinks he can get a bipartisan deal, but key Democrats have been skeptical and say much more federal investment is needed -- perhaps more than Republicans who control Congress may be willing to approve after enacting a $1.5 trillion tax cut bill in December. Senate Democrats have called for $1 trillion in federal spending.
“We are dead in the water without a commitment for additional federal funding,” said Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio, the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Some Republican leaders have also expressed concern about how to pay for an initiative. Administration officials have so far only pointed to unspecified budget savings and aren’t identifying new revenue, leaving those details to be negotiated with lawmakers.
As part of the initiative, Trump wants to eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies to reduce the time needed for environmental reviews and project approvals to an average of two years -- “and perhaps even one,” he said in his address to Congress.
Democrats and environmental groups are already pushing back against the effort as an attempt to “gut” protections for expediency’s sake to benefit corporate interests and to distract from a lack of federal investment in the plan.
“You cannot streamline your way to infrastructure,” said Scott Slesinger, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The administration “has no desire to erode traditional environmental protections or roll back or strip protections,” Alex Herrgott, associate director of infrastructure at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said during a presentation last month at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting in Washington.
“We’re trying to fix the problem,” Herrgott said. “We’re not trying to do anything other than that.”
Trump promised during his presidential campaign to deliver an infrastructure plan within his first 100 days in office and then by the third quarter last year, but the administration and Congress first tried to overhaul health care and then pursued a tax bill.