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Another Disappointment?

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, January 5, 2017

Yet another incoming US President is proposing another infrastructure spending plan before a Congress that simply won’t hear it.  President-elect Trump’s $1 trillion investment plan, relying heavily on public private partnerships, sidesteps the unpopular fuel tax hikes, almost impossible general spending increases and business tax reform that tanked President Obama’s infrastructure agenda.  The Trump team also floated the idea of an infrastructure “task force”.  But neither the plan nor the task force to support it can avoid the opposition of the president-elect’s own party for increased spending.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate balked at Trump’s plan.  Additionally, well ahead of her nomination hearing, Trump’s pick to head the DOT, Elaine Chao, advised a more cautious expectation of the amount of money coming down the pipeline.  Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is talking about steamlining not spending.

Not surprising, details from the Trump administration are still sketchy.  They discussed subsidizing private development with significant tax credits — equivalent to 82 percent of the equity private financiers spend on infrastructure. Developers would own the infrastructure and benefit directly from the collection of tolls and fees.

Some Democrats have called the deal a “Trojan horse” playing to the emotions of American shippers struggling with crumbling transportation infrastructure while providing tax breaks and giveaways to investors who simply get credits to do projects that are already underway.

The hope is that the incoming administration’s emphasis on infrastructure may present a few rare moments of peace between the Democrats and the new White House administration.  House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), have apparently welcomed the plan with open arms.  “We have a unique opportunity,” Shuster said in a statement Nov. 10. “One of the few issues that provided common ground was the need for investments in America’s transportation network and infrastructure.”

Democrats like Schumer have, at the very least, given the plan a sense of bipartisan support. But it’s Republicans who control Congress.  Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have indicated that infrastructure was not a top priority for the new Congress.  It hasn’t been a priority for past Congresses either. 

So it appears that the Trump infrastructure plan, like infrastructure plans before it, may have never really had a chance in the first place.

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