President Donald Trump was set to unveil an ambitious $1.5 trillion plan to transform America’s ailing infrastructure over a 10-year period in a much-awaited push to initiate action on one of his major campaign promises.
But the plan outlined by officials at a background briefing ahead of Trump’s formal rollout has already run into some swift criticism from Democrats for trying to “shift the burden onto cities and States” in terms of both resource mobilisation and implementation.
Touted as a highlight of his upcoming budget plan, Trump will propose $200 billion in federal spending for repairing and rebuilding infrastructure, with the rest being mobilized by State and local governments along with private participation.
Half of the federal funding is proposed to be used as incentives handed to cities, counties and States to raise at least 80 percent of the infrastructure costs themselves.
Critics say that what the Trump plan proposes is a big departure on how infrastructure projects are funded. While major transit projects follow a 50-50 federal-State funding pattern, the Trump proposal calls on State and local governments to mobilise four times of what the federal government intends to provide.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the Trump plan would eliminate bureaucratic roadblocks to facilitate quicker execution of projects. As he put it, the plan “reduces the regulatory burdens we face, shortening and simplifying the approval process for projects, and eliminating barriers that prevent projects from being efficiently developed”.
In his first State of the Union address last month, Trump had held forth: “Together, we can reclaim our building heritage. We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land.”
“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,” he had said.
Officials said that apart from the $200 billion federal outlay, the administration would also be seeking $21 billion from the recently-approved two-year spending plan to “jumpstart key elements of the infrastructure initiative”.
In the course of his campaign, Trump used to regularly deride America’s “crumbling” infrastructure, at times calling it no better than that in some of the “Third World” countries.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was quick to assail Trump’s plan, saying it “shifts the burden onto cities and states”. Touting an alternative plan that the Democrats have proposed, she said their plan envisages a $1 trillion federal investment and promises to create 15 million new jobs.
“We have a comprehensive proposal that is transformational for America in what it proposes…. The president talks a big act, but then he proposes a small bill, a small act of Congress,” Pelosi said.