Monday, 11 November, 2019

Trump unveils $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, proposes cuts to other federal programs

Trump unveils $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, proposes cuts to other federal programs Trump unveils $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, proposes cuts to other federal programs
Patty Aguilar | 12 February, 2018, 07:17

Virtually 100 per cent of major infrastructure in the United States requires some form of federal permissions, officials told reporters.

How big would it be?

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Senior White House officials said the president's budget, due to be released today, will include US$200 billion earmarked for projects to fix roads, bridges and other crucial infrastructure. Democrats have criticized the $200 billion in federal spending in the past as insufficient compared to the needs facing the nation's roads, bridges and waterways. "And the reason we went from a trillion to $1.5 trillion is because we've actually received a, sort of, more enthusiastic response than we anticipated from state and local governments". There are at least six committees in the House and five in the Senate that will consider elements of the plan, White House officials said.

And he said if local governments do engage in the Trump plan, it could result in an even heavier tax burden on residents in NY and other high-tax states where many taxpayers likely will pay more federal taxes because they can deduct only $10,000 in state and local taxes from their federal returns.

Trump is set to host a meeting with state and local officials on his proposal Monday, but it is not clear if any of them will be from NY.

Numerous cuts the Trump administration is proposing in this year's budget plan, which would help pay for the new initiative, also appeared in the president's budget outline last year but went nowhere.

How would the money be split up?

The plan also comes after a $1.5 trillion tax cut signed into law at the end of past year, and a $300 billion spending measure last week that will add to the federal budget deficit, making some fiscal conservatives in Congress squirm.

The Gateway program may also be eligible for part of the $20 billion pot of money set aside for "transformative" programs aimed at next-century visionary programs, depending on how the application is structured, the White House said.

If a local government is unable to raise the necessary funds for a much-needed infrastructure project, they would still have access to existing state revolving funds and the Highway Trust Fund but would likely be unable to participate in this new incentive program.

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What else might the plan do?

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The infrastructure outline will feature four overarching goals, according to the White House: stimulate $1.5 trillion in new investment and infrastructure; shorten the permitting process to two years; invest in rural infrastructure; and make improvements in training the workforce that would be generated as a part of the plan.

To do that, the administration wants to put a single federal agency in charge of the permitting process for each project, so that there would be "one federal decision" on each project.

Currently, the process can take five to 10 years. An Obama-era grant program that focused on fixing environmental problems and reducing energy dependence will also be cut.

The White House maintains that an 80 percent match is just a suggestion, not a requirement.

The proposal echoes one made in 2015 by a nonprofit group called Common Good, which recommended limiting litigation around infrastructure permitting - one of the main reasons approvals get delayed - and putting one person in charge of environmental review.

How would the plan be paid for?

A senior administration official insisted the plan was not shifting responsibilities to the states. There are nearly 54,300 structurally deficient bridges, and USA airports estimate they need almost $100 billion for capital projects in the next five years alone.

Still, Trump infrastructure adviser D.J. Gribbin told a group of mayors last month that the administration is open to the idea of raising the gas tax to pay for more infrastructure improvements. The city of Los Angeles adopted a sales-tax referendum in November 2016 to generate $120 billion over 40 years for infrastructure, which administration officials said could serve as an example for others. The White House did specify that they would reduce spending on transit funding, which includes federal funding for Amtrak. Only 28% of all highway construction and only 4% of water projects nationwide get federal funding, the officials said.

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