President Donald Trump called on Congress to produce a bipartisan $1.5 trillion bill for new infrastructure investment during his first State of the Union address last night, saying it would provide a safe, fast, reliable and modern infrastructure that the U.S. economy needs.
The President spoke at a high level about his vision for an infrastructure plan, but gave no insight into how such a massive bill would be paid for.
President Trump reiterated his clear intent to shift responsibility for financing infrastructure projects from the federal government to the states and private sector, stating that every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and that where appropriate the U.S. should tap private sector investment to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.
The President also called for streamlining the permitting and approval process to no more than two years, calling it a “disgrace” that it can now take “10 years to get a minor permit approval for the building of a simple road.”
NATSO thinks it is imperative that the federal government maintain its strong national role in infrastructure development, and not relinquish its responsibility to the states or the private sector.
NATSO has long supported increasing the nation’s motor fuels taxes to fund infrastructure and has urged the Administration to seek sustainable solutions to funding infrastructure that don’t harm American businesses and highway users.
Immediately following the State of the Union, the White House emailed a fact sheet to media that confirmed some of the information contained in a document leaked earlier this month and widely speculated to the funding principles for the Administration’s infrastructure plan but which the Administration refused to verify.
That leaked document called for half of all federal funding to come in the form of a grant program that would primarily benefit states that develop their own revenue-raising mechanisms in lieu of a coherent and unified national infrastructure strategy. Another 25 percent would go toward rural infrastructure, and 10 percent would put spent on “transformative” projects. Additionally, 7 percent would bolster existing federal credit programs and 5 percent would be used to establish a federal capital financing fund.
That document also specifically called for allowing states more flexibility to toll on interstates and would give states the ability to redirect those tolling revenues for transportation projects other than for the roads on which they were collected. It further called for providing states with the ability to commercialize interstate rest areas.
The President gave no indication during his speech as to when the Administration would put forth official guidelines for such a massive infrastructure proposal. However, it has been widely speculated that they could come out within the next two weeks.
Responding to the President’s State of the Union address, the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates said the President touts a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package in vague and grandiose terms and fails to address the most significant aspect of the plan – where funding will come from.
“If Trump relies on the private sector and forcing states and localities to come up with their own funding, Trump’s infrastructure plan could result in a patchwork of tolls that span coast to coast. This approach is not innovative or good policy - it is simply a nationwide call for #TrumpTolls,” ATFI said. “There is a real opportunity for a long-term solution to our transportation infrastructure needs, but it shouldn’t include tolling our interstates.”
ATFI said that an infrastructure plan relying on Trump Tolls to pay for roads is a complete reversal of President Trump’s commitment to putting America First. “We urge President Trump not to choose Wall Street over Main Street. Tolls would take money from hardworking Americans and give huge profits to toll road investors.”
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