Trump's $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan May Go Beyond Transportation

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DALLAS -- President Donald Trump's long-awaited infrastructure plan will be unveiled later this year and may include water, broadband, and veterans hospital projects as well as highways and bridges, said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

"His infrastructure initiative -- which will be announced later this year -- will include a strategic, targeted program of investment valued at $1 trillion over 10 years," Chao said Wednesday at an event celebrating the Transportation Department's 50th anniversary. "The proposal will cover more than transportation infrastructure -- it will include energy, water and potentially broadband and veterans hospitals, as well."

Before taking office Trump said he would propose a $1 trillion infrastructure measure within the first 100 days of his administration to fulfill a campaign promise from late October. However, details of the plan remain murky as the Trump team has spent its first months dealing with a failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, legal disputes over an immigration travel ban, and questions over Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Chao did not provide any additional clarity to the infrastructure plan except to note that funding the program remains as one of the biggest questions that must be answered.

"Another key issue… is how to pay for infrastructure without saddling future generations with massive debt," she said. "The president's plan hopes to unleash the potential for private investment in infrastructure by incentivizing public-private partnerships."

In an address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, Trump said the infrastructure plan would be financed with "both public and private capital."

Regulatory delays and not a lack of funding is the biggest impediment to the revitalization of U.S. infrastructure, Chao said.

"Investors say there is ample capital available, waiting to be invested in infrastructure projects. So the problem is not money," she said. "It's the delays caused by government permitting processes that hold up projects for years, even decades, making them risky investments."

The Trump plan "will include common-sense regulatory, administrative, organizational, and policy changes that will encourage investment and speed project delivery," she said.

The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress will work on quick passage of tax reform along with an infrastructure measure following the failed health care effort, said John Drake, senior vice president for legislative affairs at the American Trucking Associations.

"The most recent intelligence we've been getting out of the White House is that they are going to be focusing on tax reform as well as infrastructure next," Drake said. "This setback in the health care changes really sort of changed the calculus of Congress and the administration going forward."

Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., the sponsor of legislation that would use revenues from international corporate tax reform to fund infrastructure spending, said the road to infrastructure funding runs through the Senate, not the House, following the health care fiasco.

"I don't think the president is going to spend a lot of time developing plans with the House on what to do after this recent experience," he said at a another transportation industry event on Wednesday.

The transportation funding problem could be largely resolved by raising the federal gasoline tax, Carl Davis, research director at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said in a brief interview.

April 1 will mark the 8,584th day, or 23.5 years, since the gasoline tax was raised to its current rate of 18.4 cents per gallon in 1993, Davis said.

"With infrastructure funding high on Congress's list of priorities, updating this extraordinarily outdated area of the tax code is a logical place to begin searching for revenue," said Davis.

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