February 13, 2018
On Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, the White House officially released President Trump‘s infrastructure plan, Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America, asking Congress to put together a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan focused on public-private partnerships and state and local funding. According to a White House fact sheet, the plan focuses on six main principles:
“My Administration’s plan addresses more than traditional infrastructure — like roads, bridges, and airports — but addresses other needs like drinking and wastewater systems, waterways, water resources, energy, rural infrastructure, public lands, veterans’ hospitals, and Brownfield and Superfund sites“The reforms set forth in my plan will strengthen the economy, make our country more competitive, reduce the costs of goods and services for American families, and enable Americans to build their lives on top of the best infrastructure in the world,” Trump says in the document.
The federal government would contribute $200 billion to the infrastructure package, an amount which Democrats have already said is too small, so Democrats will likely oppose the plan. The Hill reports that the Democratic National Committee already released an email to reporters after the proposal’s release saying, “After repeatedly failing to live up to his infrastructure promises, the release of Trump’s infrastructure plan today once again falls short. Trump’s plan is just another giveaway to corporations and wealthy developers at the expense of American workers, and it fails to address some of the most pressing infrastructure needs our country faces.”
However, according to the Surface Transportation Innovations Newsletter, Robert W. Poole, Jr., Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow and Director of Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation says it’s a good plan. The plan calls for the government to raise its $200 billion portion by eliminating ineffective federal programs, rather than by raising taxes or borrowing money. Poole says, “It’s a basic principle of good government to periodically review all the things it is doing, assess the benefits versus cost of each, and weed out those that are not delivering value for money. The White House should be commended for proposing this, not condemned.”
Rather than becoming a stimulus program, the plan includes an Incentives Initiative, in addition to long-standing incentive programs, that would draw on innovative financing in an effort to leverage federal dollars. According to the newsletter, Poole says, “The White House plan would significantly expand the federal programs that assist such leveraging: private activity bonds, TIFIA, RRIF, and WIFIA. Both the Incentives Initiative and the Transformative Projects Program are aimed at better targeting investment to infrastructure projects that deliver better value for the money.”
In the newsletter, Poole notes that the [Incentives Initiative] is aimed at expanding the use of long-term public-private partnerships by “making tax-exempt private activity bonds more widely available for such projects, removing the outdated federal ban on toll-financing the reconstruction and modernization of aging Interstate highways, and potentially allowing such revenue-based P3 projects to replace and modernize the aging locks and dams on the Inland Waterway System. That plus meaningful streamlining of the permitting process should open the door for significant new investment in American infrastructure.