Trump releases $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan

President Donald Trump is scheduled to release a $1.5 trillion infrastructure renewal plan on Monday that will likely set up the next big fight in Congress.

Early reports indicate that Trump’s underlying “on time and under budget” business mantra is a vital part of the plan to rebuild and expand the nation’s highways, roadways, airports, water treatment facilities, pipelines and more.

In addition to making physical upgrades and repairs, the president also wants to fundamentally change the way the federal government approaches infrastructure prioritization, funding, and awarding of federal contracts.

“It’s broken in two different ways: We are under-investing in our infrastructure, and we have a permitting process that takes so long that even when funds are adequate, it can take a decade to build critical infrastructure,” said one official.

The official said that the president envisions providing $200 billion in federal funding for 10 years, to leverage bigger investments on state and local levels. The added federal expenditures would be offset by cuts elsewhere in the 2019 budget, which is also set for release this week.

There are four pillars of Trump’s plan:

  • Leverage and stimulate $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending
  • Shorten the permitting process to two years
  • Target invest in rural infrastructure such as broadband internet service with $50 billion in block grants to states
  • Improve workforce training, including expanding Pell Grant eligibility to students pursuing certification or credentials for in-demand fields

Officials within the Trump administration have been working on the plan for a year. [source]

Analysis: There are so many areas of the country that are in vital need of refurbishment, and the president is right to focus on rebuilding them. Doing so will not only dramatically improve our country, but provide untold tens of thousands of good-paying, long-term jobs.

But unfortunately, this plan will become the next big political football in D.C. because lawmakers are lawmakers and they’re going to want special carve-outs, perks, and other benefits for their own constituents in exchange for a “yes” vote. Why would a Maryland Democrat vote for a major upgrade to an airport in Texas, after all?

The one advantage to Trump’s plan, however, is that it is less about direct federal funding of local projects than it is about providing incentives for local private investments in infrastructure in partnership with the federal government using matching funds. This should provide more incentives for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to vote in favor because of the local investment nature of the plan — everyone has local funding, right? 

We’ll see. Already there are rumblings that Democrats are not going to just offer blanket support because they will want $1 trillion in direct federal spending, which is not something Trump or Republicans will likely agree to, especially after they were criticized by conservatives in their own party after agreeing to a two-year budget deal that dramatically raised spending limits on military and domestic programs.

Bottom line, though, is that infrastructure needs upgrading, and that is especially true for the nation’s power grid. — JD

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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