By David Bauer, executive vice president/advocacy, ARTBA
The Trump administration will place a major emphasis on encouraging state, local, and private infrastructure investment, according to a six-page document claiming to be an outline of its long-awaited plan that circulated throughout Washington, D.C., Jan. 22. Although the source of the paper has not been confirmed, the infrastructure proposal structure and policy recommendations it describes closely tracks what administration officials have discussed since last summer.
A White House spokesperson told reporters, “We are not going to comment on the contents of a leaked document, but look forward to presenting our plan in the near future.”
According to the outline:
- 50 percent of funds would be allocated to an “Infrastructure Incentives Initiative” that would use those resources to encourage state, local, and private investment in infrastructure improvements. The federal grants would not be allowed to exceed 20 percent of total project cost. Grants would be awarded based on how submissions score against a set of criteria, with no state being eligible to receive more than 10 percent of the total amount of available funds;
- 10 percent of funds would be dedicated to a “Transformative Projects Program” that would provide funds for “exploratory and ground-breaking” projects that are unable to secure financing through the private sector due to their risk. The Department of Commerce would administer this program with an interagency selection committee;
- 25 percent of funds would support a “Rural Infrastructure Program” to incentivize states to partner with local and private investment for infrastructure projects. The funds would be distributed by formula as block grants without federal requirements in areas with a population of less than 50,000. Governors would control 80 percent of the funds. The remaining 20 percent would be designated for “rural performance grants” to implement a “rural infrastructure investment plan,” which must be published within 180 days of receiving funds;
- 7.05 percent of funds would be used for “Federal Credit Programs” to increase the capacity of existing infrastructure lending programs. It would also create a new “Public Lands Infrastructure Fund” that would receive resources from existing mineral and energy development fees;
- 5 percent of funds would be designated for a “Federal Capital Financing Fund” to finance purchases of federally-owned civilian property. The revolving fund would allow agencies to purchase property and repay the fund over 15 years; and
- Broaden the eligibility for Private Activity Bonds to encourage private investment, including reconstruction projects and ports and airports.
The document does not indicate where the remaining 2.95 percent of resources would be allocated. It devotes two pages to a series of infrastructure improvement principles that apply to transportation, water infrastructure, veterans affairs and land revitalization.
It is notable the infrastructure paper does not use specific dollar amounts and uses percentages to show how funds would be spread. Recent reports have indicated the $200 billion in direct federal investment the administration called for in its FY 2018 budget proposal is under debate and that the package size could increase.
ARTBA expects more details about the Trump administration’s infrastructure proposal to be released after President Trump’s Jan. 30 State of the Union address.