WASHINGTON – Sen. Ron Wyden criticized President Trump on Thursday for his failure to start addressing the nation’s massive infrastructure needs and said his plan is “concerning and wrong-headed.”
In a two-page letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee said independent estimates show there is a $2 trillion gap between infrastructure needs and spending commitments for the next decade “while the federal government has dithered.”
“The president makes bold claims when it comes to infrastructure, but that talk has not yet been met with action,” Wyden said. “The few proposals the president has put forward are concerning and wrong-headed.”
Trump proposed “a massive privatization of public infrastructure assets, underwritten by taxpayers,” Wyden said. The president floated a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure plan last October that would use tax credits to encourage private investments and public-private partnerships. But he has not moved forward with that plan and instead has put forth budget proposals that would “gut vital infrastructure grant programs,” the Oregonian told Mnuchin.
The senator said that while he does not oppose private investment in infrastructure, “P3s are not a magical solution to a massive long-running program, especially if they are only used to shift costs by levying tolls. Private investment is not going to repave rural highways or maintain and expand America’s transit networks.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that private investment accounted for only 1.5% of all infrastructure investment in the U.S. over the past three decades, Wyden told the Treasury Secretary.
“Democrats have put forward a plan that would rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, create jobs, and grow the economy, while the American people still wait on this administration’s ‘phenomenal plans’ that are forever ‘a few weeks away,’” Wyden said, adding, “It is time for you and president to stop talking and start working.”
The senator was referring to the Democrat’s infrastructure plan, announced in January that would provide $1 trillion of direct federal funding of infrastructure over a 10-year period. It would expand the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program by $10 billion and provide major increases in clean water and drinking water state revolving funds. It would also create a $200 billion Vital Infrastructure Projects (VIP) program that would direct major federal investments to the most critical national projects.
A press release accompanying the letter also mentioned a bill that Wyden and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. introduced in the last Congress that would create Move America Bonds. An MAB would generally be treated as an exempt-facility private activity bond, but would have fewer restrictions and separate state volume caps that could be converted into tax credit allocations.