In his first State of the Union speech, President Trump upped the ante for infrastructure spending by requesting that Congress craft a bipartisan bill that “generates” at least $1.5 trillion to invest in the “safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve.”
However, Trump did not indicate at all how he would pay for that largesse. What’s more, the $1.5 trillion figure is $500 billion more than the president has previously called for to fund infrastructure.
It was the only new detail mentioned about his long-anticipated infrastructure plan during his 80-minute SOFU address to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 30.
“I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve,” said Trump.
How to Pay for Infrastructure Improvements
Based on what the Trump Administration has previously stated – as well as a recently leaked draft document – the president’s approach to financing infrastructure improvements apparently remains fixed on priming the pump with $200 billion in cash and tax credits, which presumably will stoke spending by state and even local governments as well as private investors, to actually fund most of the price tag that Trump has hung on improving highway, railroad, airport, marine, and other infrastructure.
“Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment — to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit,” Trump added, suggesting yet again that he does not expect Congress to come up with all the $1.5 trillion he is seeking now.
Indicative of the pushback Trump can expect from Democrats in Congress was the reaction of House Transportation Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR). “President Trump cannot pretend to solve our infrastructure woes by slashing real investments to states and local governments, pushing the responsibility off federal balance sheets, cutting existing transportation programs to pay for Wall Street and foreign investors to toll our roads, and gutting bedrock environmental protections," DeFazio said, according to a Politico.com report.
The president also again called for slashing the red tape that can slow infrastructure projects by years. “Is it not a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?” Trump asked rhetorically, before demanding that any infrastructure bill must “streamline the permitting and approval process — getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one.”
In his far-ranging address, the president also declared that the U.S. has “finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals.” While offering no details, he stated that his administration will “work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones.”
Trump also made a pitch for investing more in workforce development and job training. “Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential,” he said. In addition, he declared his support for providing workers with paid family leave.