Crumbling infrastructure takes center stage in D.C.

By Land Line staff | Friday, March 03, 2017

President Donald Trump talked about it in his address to Congress. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao talked about it to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Lawmakers are floating their plans for it. All eyes in D.C. continue to turn to the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure and what it’s going to take to fix it.

President Donald Trump pushed for road and bridge repair and renewed his call for a $1 trillion program to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure during a speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

“Another Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program – the building of the Interstate Highway System. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.”

Trump said that the U.S. has approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East, “all the while, our infrastructure at home is crumbling.” He said that with the same $6 trillion, “we could have rebuilt our country twice, and maybe even three times.”

He went on to push for Congress to craft a $1 trillion infrastructure funding plan.

“To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States financed through both public and private capital, creating millions of new jobs.

“This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American and hire American.”

When an infrastructure bill might go before Congress is up in the air.

Some political observers say that this year’s session is already filling up with other big issues like tax policy and health care reform – and that infrastructure legislation may have to wait until next year.

That hasn’t tamped down talk in Congress about transportation funding. Infrastructure plans are already circulating in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Building a 21st Century
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership has launched the framework for its plan to craft a robust and expansive infrastructure package.

The committee has already held one hearing on the topic. Although all funding mechanisms were on the table, panelists and members of the Committee alike were reluctant to turn to public-private partnerships as the answer for funding.

In spite of an articulated plan for funding, the committee remains committed to a $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

“President Trump made infrastructure a priority before the election, and his address tonight reaffirmed his commitment to building a 21stcentury infrastructure,” Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa, said in a statement following Trump’s address to Congress.

“Renewing the American spirit starts with creating jobs and economic opportunity. Our infrastructure is what ties all of these things together. The committee looks forward to working with the president and the secretary of transportation to improve our infrastructure and strengthen our economy.”

While Shuster is supportive of the plan, he says the funding won’t be coming exclusively from D.C.

“It’s not going to be a trillion dollars coming out of Washington, D.C.,” he told Politico. “There are billions and billions of dollars out there today – private sector dollars – that are going to be spent.”

A ‘Blueprint’
Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., have floated a plan by members of the Senate. Titled “A Blueprint to Republic America’s Infrastructure.” It also calls for a historic $1 trillion federal investment into the infrastructure.

The plan isn’t limited to highways and bridges, much like Trump’s plan, which seeks to revitalize everything from highways to airport to ports.

Funding, as with all the transportation talk right now, remains vague in the Senate Democrat’s plan. He states only that funding would come from in part by “closing tax loopholes used by corporations and super-wealthy individuals to offset associated costs.”

Penny for Progress
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, released three funding options that “could be a critical part” of Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure investment commitment.

A Penny for Progress proposal authorizes the U.S. Department of Treasury to issue 30-year Invest in America Bonds annually, through 2030. Each bond will be repaid using indexed gasoline and diesel user fees beginning in 2017. The plan would likely increase the gas and diesel user fees by approximately 1 cent per year, and would be capped at no more than 1.5 cents annually.

His plan also addresses funding shortfalls at the ports and airports.

Land Line Now News Anchor Reed Black and Land Line Managing Editor Jami Jones contributed to this report.

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