President Donald Trump renewed his call for major infrastructure investment during his State of the Union address on Jan. 5, but offered no details on his plans for funding such investment even as he urged Republicans and Democrats to work together on a measure to rebuild and revitalize the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
"Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America's crumbling infrastructure," President Trump said. "I know that the Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill — and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting edge industries of the future. This is not an option. This is a necessity."
Speaking at a very high level, the President said that the United States was in a “moment of unlimited potential” and cited a willingness to include investments in “clean technologies of the future.”
Many in the transportation sector had hoped that the President would provide details about how a massive infrastructure package would be paid for as well as publicly endorse an increase to the motor fuels taxes -- a policy position that the President has reportedly privately embraced but not yet publicly supported.
Instead, the President’s broad statements in the State of the Union served more as a signal to Congress to begin work on a major infrastructure package despite the backdrop of another potential government shutdown amid continued controversy over immigration and border security.
Minutes after the State of the Union closed, Congressman Peter DeFazio, Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, urged President Trump to address the solvency crisis of the Highway Trust Fund.
Rep. DeFazio said in a statement that upgrading transportation infrastructure won't be able to happen "if we continue to ignore the looming crisis facing the Highway Trust Fund."
"We face a $1 trillion surface transportation investment gap over the next 10 years to fix the infrastructure we have, meet future needs, and restore our global competitiveness," Rep. DeFazio said. "Any serious infrastructure proposal must provide sustainable, long-term federal funding."
Rep. DeFazio said that he will work to build bipartisan agreement around legislation, but added, “I can't do it alone. This will require massive effort from the White House, stakeholders, and supporters in Congress to get something real across the finish line."
The T&I Committee is scheduled to kick off a series of infrastructure hearings on Feb. 7 to collect stakeholder input.
In 2018, the President called on Congress to produce a bipartisan $1.5 trillion bill for new infrastructure investment that would shift responsibility for financing infrastructure projects from the federal government to the states and private sector. The Administration’s proposal failed to gain traction on Capitol Hill, however, and it is widely anticipated that the Administration will embrace a new set of policy proposals to advance infrastructure amid the new Congressional makeup.
American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear said in a statement to media Feb. 5 that “a win on this issue will require real investment, not budgetary gimmicks as tried in years past."
During the State of the Union, the President also asked Congress to pass his new trade deal with Canada and Mexico known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement and give him the power to unilaterally increase tariffs on countries that charge levies for U.S.-made goods. The President said the measures would “deliver for American workers” and bring manufacturing back to the United States.
"Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — the USMCA — will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers like they haven't had delivered to for a long time," President Trump said. "I hope you can pass the USMCA so that we can bring back our manufacturing jobs, expand American agriculture, protect intellectual property, and ensure that more cars are proudly stamped with our four beautiful words: made in the USA."
Trucks move $720 billion worth of goods annually across U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico, and cross-border trucking activity supports more than 47,000 jobs in the United States, according to ATA. ATA's Spear said any significant disruption to those trading relationships would have serious consequences for trucking and the economy, "so we join President Trump in his call for Congress to quickly ratify the USMCA trade agreement.”
President Trump buttressed his argument for tougher immigration policy and border security with a focus on human trafficking. The President said that human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide open areas between the nation’s ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.
Actual statistics on human trafficking are difficult to collect and track, but the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, a global data hub on human trafficking, said nearly 80 percent of international trafficking victims cross through legal ports of entry, which means that the flow of human trafficking would not be stopped by a border wall.
The Trump Administration has made human trafficking a top priority agenda item. In 2018, the Department of Transportation launched a Human Trafficking Advisory Council that aims to develop strategies that state agencies and local transportation stakeholders can utilize to implement anti-human trafficking initiatives.
The committee includes 15 representatives from organizations that fight human trafficking as well as academics and representatives of the various modes of transportation, including trucking, bus, airlines and ports. NATSO Vice President of Public Affairs Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman serves as Vice Chair of the group’s Subcommittee on Awareness and Training.
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