President Donald Trump visited the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18 training facility in Richwood, Ohio, promoting his plan to use a mix of taxpayer-funded debt financing, public-private partnerships, and direct taxpayer funding to spur infrastructure construction.
Addressing the labor union on March 29, Trump said political games were delaying implementation of his infrastructure plan.
“I have asked Republicans and Democrats in Congress to come together and deliver the biggest and boldest infrastructure plan in the last half-century,” Trump said. “I don’t think you’re going to get Democrat support very much, and you’ll probably have to wait until after the election, which isn’t so long down the road, but we’re going to get this infrastructure going.”
The White House released a 55-page memorandum outlining Trump’s priorities for government infrastructure spending in February. No legislation implementing the plan has yet been proposed in Congress.
Trump signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill in March that increases federal infrastructure outlays by $21 billion, short of the $200 billion increase requested in his 2019 budget proposal.
‘It’s a Mixed Bag’
Michael Sargent, a transportation policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation, says the reforms in the president’s infrastructure proposal are more encouraging than the conventional elements.
“It’s a mixed bag overall,” Sargent said. “You have the funding part, which dictates how they’re going to spend the $200 billion, then you have the reform aspect to it, which I think has a lot more notable and encouraging policy.”
Trump’s plan includes reviewing how federal laws hamstring local and state public-works projects, Sargent says.
“It basically looks at the laundry list of the different laws which govern our infrastructure at the federal level,” Sargent said. “Because the federal government owns relatively little civilian infrastructure, these laws are what they use to control state and local governments when it comes to the operation of our infrastructure. A lot of these laws are in drastic need of reform.”
Skeptical Toward Politicians
Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, says politics and road-building don’t mix.
“The thing that’s curious to me is that the whole infrastructure debate was raised because people have been complaining about crumbling infrastructure,” O’Toole said. “The reason we have crumbling infrastructure is because we let politicians decide how some of our infrastructure money is spent.”
“When politicians make the decisions, the decisions end up being bad,” O’Toole said. “The problem with Trump’s plan is he doesn’t delegate any of the money for rehabilitation. All the money can be used on either new projects or rehabilitation, and who gets to decide? Politicians.”