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Trump launches $1.5 trillion infrastructure sales pitch

Published on February 12, 2018


Trump launches $1.5 trillion infrastructure sales pitch


His infrastructure plan is light on federal dollars and heavy on incentives for state and local spending.

The White House finally rolled out President Donald Trump’s long-awaited infrastructure plan Monday, swinging for the fences with a $1.5 trillion initiative that is light on new federal dollars — but could inspire a wave of toll roads, ease decades-old regulations and permanently change cities’ and states’ expectations for assistance from Washington.

“It is time to give Americans the working, modern infrastructure they deserve,” Trump said in a message to Congress accompanying his “legislative outline.”

The proposal faces tough odds in Congress: Some conservative Republicans are already expressing shock at Trump’s total price tag, while Democrats say the share coming from the federal government would be too little to fill the backlog of crumbling roads, bridges, railroads, tunnels and airports, along with other needs like rural broadband service, veterans’ hospitals, toxic waste cleanups and drinking water.

Trump is proposing to provide $200 billion for his plan over the next 10 years — “not a large amount,” he has conceded — paid for by unspecified cuts elsewhere in the budget proposal that the White House also plans to release Monday. That spending is meant to draw an additional $1.3 trillion or more in investments from cities, states, private investors and other sources.

But more fundamentally, the White House says it will finally address a dysfunctional system in which Washington calls too many of the shots, federal red tape gets in the way and some communities fail to put enough “skin in the game” — all while dire needs go unmet.

“The current system is fundamentally broken, and it’s broken in two different ways,” a senior administration official told reporters during a briefing Saturday. “We are underinvesting in our infrastructure, and we have a permitting process that takes so long that even when funds are adequate, it can take a decade to build critical infrastructure.”

Trump’s plan, the official said, offers “a permanent fix.” The plan also includes specific money for rural communities, aim to encourage apprenticeships and other forms of workforce training, and pay for unspecified “transformative,” “next-century-type” projects that would “lift the American spirit,” the official said.

However, many infrastructure advocates believe that the real fix that’s needed is a permanent new revenue stream, something Trump’s plan doesn’t address.

Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, the top Democrat on the Transportation Committee, said in an address Friday that Trump’s plan would “slash the federal commitment to a national infrastructure network.”


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