March 14, 2017
During its early days, President Trump’s administration relied largely on executive orders to signal that there is, indeed, a new chief in town. While issues such as the travel ban have garnered much attention, many aggregate operators are watching for movement on issues that most directly affect their businesses. At press time, confirmations were taking place for many cabinet members and legislative initiatives had not yet been rolled out.
“It’s a different dynamic to issue executive orders and do the kinds of things you can do as a new president than it is to begin to work with Congress and start to engage in a dialogue to drive results a different way,” said Michael Johnson, CEO of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, during a recent government affairs teleconference. Johnson noted that President Trump, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell share the same basic governance policy, but have strong personalities and each believe in their own approach to issues, which may make the minutiae of policymaking a more slow-paced process.
Infrastructure investment was a key plank of the President’s campaign platform, and it was one of his first priorities following the election. Descriptions of his plan range between $500 billion and $1 trillion. Draft versions of these plans, however, indicate that those figures are not solely for highways and roads. Investments could also be made in airports, ports, public buildings, and even a fiber optic network.
Operators should also be aware that the figures represent a one-time investment over a 10-year window rather than an ongoing funding mechanism. While some White House advisors have indicated the President’s preference for infrastructure investment through private-public partnership, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has expressed a desire to see direct funding as well. Hopefully, the administration relies on Chao’s experience and recognizes that not all infrastructure investments are suitable for private-public partnerships. That is a good talking point to communicate with your legislators.
It will also be interesting to see how the President and Congress address the Highway Trust Fund issue. Long-term funding streams need to be identified and put in place while the Republican party has control of both the White House and Congress.
Regulatory issues are another top concern for operators who have had to contend with overzealous regulators for much of the last decade. Key concerns include what will happen with the workplace exam rule, how asbestos will be defined by the EPA, and the future of the Waters of the U.S. rule.
The President’s Jan. 31 executive order, Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, requires that, for every new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination. It will likely provide some relief to small producers, in particular. A recent survey by the Small Business Association found that small business owners report spending an average of $12,000 per year on regulations.
Early indications are good, but as the administration fleshes out its proposals, we’ll keep you up to date. Check in at www.aggman.com for developing news.