DALLAS –States and local governments would have to match the federal funding in the administration's proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan to participate in the renewal effort, President Trump said Wednesday in a speech in Cincinnati.
Trump said his infrastructure plan will build projects that “excite and inspire, because that is what a great country does, what a great country has to do,” while providing only a few new details on the proposal.
A mixture of loans and grants will help fund transformative projects that bring U.S. infrastructure into the 21st century, Trump said, with grants for rebuilding roads and bridges in rural areas that do not have the high traffic volumes needed for tolling. Projects with regional or national significance also would be eligible for low-interest loans provided by the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, he said.
The $200 billion of direct federal funding over 10 years in the plan will serve as the incentive for states and localities to raise matching funds for infrastructure projects, Trump said at the event next to the Ohio River at Cincinnati.
The federal funding will help states and local governments prioritize projects that offer the most economic bang for the buck, he said.
“There is no limit to what we can achieve,” Trump said. “All it takes is a bold and daring viewpoint and the will to make it happen.”
Trump invited Democratic lawmakers to work on the infrastructure legislation but doubted they would take him up on the offer.
“Honestly, they’ve been nothing but obstructionists,” he said. “The people want to see us come together but they (the Democrats) aren’t doing that.”
The proposed streamlined regulations and shorter environmental reviews will give a boost to U.S. infrastructure, Trump said.
“You’re going to see some amazing things happen over the next long period of time,” he said in his concluding remarks.
Leveraging federal funding by requiring a local match is a good idea but more public investment is needed, said Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., at a news conference by members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus following Trump’s speech.
“I’m always for leveraging federal dollars, but we simply can’t just pass the buck,” Polis said. “I think we’ll see several competing Democratic proposals for infrastructure before we’re done.”
Democrats were ready to work with President Trump on infrastructure, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a floor speech on Wednesday, but he noted that President Trump ignored an outreach from Senate Democrats early in his administration for a bipartisan approach to the problem
“After the election, we stood ready to work with the president on a real bill, provided that it wouldn’t be just tax breaks for private financiers, or roll backs of labor and environmental protections. We even wrote a detailed blueprint, on how to spend a trillion dollars,” Schumer said. “We sent it to the White House and never heard a peep.”
Trump’s infrastructure initiative so far is a disappointment, Schumer said.
“In six months, the president still hasn’t given any real details about his infrastructure plan,” he said. “I hope the president drops his go-at-it-alone infrastructure push, and decides instead to sit down and talk to Democrats on this issue."
The Trump plan’s reliance on attracting private investments in public infrastructure that can generate revenue is “a bridge to nowhere,” Schumer said.
“It will lead to tolls, Trump tolls, from one end of the country to the other,” he said. “When private developers put up money, they want something back. There's no free lunch. And who pays them back? Every American citizen who uses the roads.”
Democratic lawmakers welcome a discussion about the issues, Schumer said.
“While we disagreed with President Trump on a great many things during the campaign … many of my colleagues thought we could find some common ground on the topic of infrastructure,” he said. “Let’s not have a few financiers whispering into the ear of the president to determine what our infrastructure policy will be, because it will be a flop.”
Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters on Monday that the president is willing to work with congressional Democrats on the infrastructure plan.
“The president has said all along he believes will be a bipartisan exercise and it's one that we will be looking to partner with them on,” Short said. “Whether or not it becomes an individual bill or it's partnered with something else, I don't know yet.”
Short declined to give a timetable for when the infrastructure legislation would go to Congress, although Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Wednesday that the text of the administration’s measure would be unveiled in the third quarter.
Infrastructure will not be taken up by lawmakers until after tax reform in the fall, Short said. “We would hope we will tackle it (infrastructure) this calendar year,” he added.
Meanhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget committee, said in a report released Wednesday that Trump’s infrastructure plan is a huge giveaway to foreign governments and billionaires at the expense of working families.
The Trump plan would cut direct federal spending on infrastructure by $145 billion over 10 years, Sanders said.
“Donald Trump’s so-called infrastructure plan is a huge giveaway to Wall Street that fails to create the millions of jobs we need to modernize our roads, bridges, water systems, rail, airports, levees and dams,” Sanders said.
“Donald Trump wants to hand over critical public infrastructure to private investors who will squeeze profits from the American people by putting up new tolls and exorbitant user fees,” Sanders said, adding, “That is unacceptable.”