By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional affairs, ARTBA
Senate Democrats Jan. 24 released a plan for how they would invest $1 trillion in infrastructure over 10 years.
“A Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure” includes $100 billion “to repair of crumbling roads and bridges on the Federal-aid Highway System,” and $180 billion to upgrade rail and transit infrastructure. Another $310 billion could potentially be used for road, bridge and transit improvements through other programs focusing on large projects and community renewal, and $30 billion is also proposed for airport and aviation system upgrades. The $380 billion balance includes a range of other infrastructure investments, including schools, hospital, energy and broadband.
Democrats said any infrastructure proposal should “include a bipartisan plan that ensures the long-term solvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund in order to prevent our roads and bridges from returning to a state of disrepair after this initial investment.”
“It’s encouraging Senate Democrats and the president appear to have a similar legislative appetite for investing in transportation infrastructure to help grow the economy. But talk is easy,” ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane said in a statement.
Ruane added: “Addressing the nation’s critical transportation needs in a meaningful way will require real, recurring, dedicated revenue streams that are complemented by private investment. For that reason, transportation revenue and tax reform should be an integral component of the comprehensive tax reform package being developed by the administration and Congress. President Trump’s leadership is key to making that happen.”
The Senate Democrats’ plan is a response to President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to make infrastructure investment one of his major priorities, which he reiterated during his Jan. 20 inaugural address. Speaking at a news conference, Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) “challenged” Trump to support the Democratic plan. Schumer also urged Republicans to put forward their own proposal if they wouldn’t back the Democratic blueprint.
While Trump has yet to release any details of his administration’s infrastructure ideas, the sticking point will be how to pay for the work. Congressional Republican leaders have said spurring private sector investment in projects should be the priority and that any infrastructure plan should not add to the deficit. Democrats have dismissed using tax breaks and other incentives to encourage private investment, arguing that direct federal spending should be the way forward. But their new infrastructure blueprint does not include any specific pay-fors.
Clearly, there remains a long way to go on any infrastructure investment measure and there are no guarantees in Washington, D.C. But today’s developments demonstrate this is one area of potential agreement between President Trump and members of Congress.