Trump’s plan for infrastructure criticized as a privatizing ‘scam’
Proposal relies on funds from local governments
WASHINGTON — President Trump will unveil his long-awaited infrastructure proposal Monday to shift $200 billion over the next decade from other federal programs to pave the way for $1.5 trillion for roads, bridges, waterways and railways.
Trump’s approach is to let Congress negotiate the details. His four objectives are to stimulate new investment, streamline federal permitting, invest in rural projects and improve the workforce, according to four senior administration officials who briefed reporters Saturday.
Spurring construction is broadly popular. But critics already are calling Trump’s approach “fake” and a “scam” for its lack of new revenue and because of its reliance on funding from local governments and private investors.
“This fake proposal will not address the serious infrastructure needs facing this country, so our potholed roads will get worse, our bridges and transit systems will become more dangerous, and our tolls will become higher,” Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a Saturday radio address.
Trump’s proposal is built on top of existing construction programs with an eye toward encouraging greater local investment, according to senior administration officials. Polls show people would prefer to have projects determined locally, rather than sending their money to Washington, according to the officials.
Congress still could develop its own funding. Trump is open to new sources of revenue, according to senior administration officials.
In 2015, lawmakers patched $70 billion from sources such as a Federal Reserve surplus, Customs and Border Protection fees and the sale of part of the strategic petroleum reserve in order to provide $305 billion for the last fiveyear highway bill.
The gas tax traditionally funded the highway trust fund. But the tax has remained 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, and it hasn’t kept pace with inflation as cars became more fuel-efficient.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an influential advocacy group for businesses, proposed in January raising the gas tax 5 cents each year for five years to generate $394 billion over a decade.
“It’s the simplest, fairest and most effective way to raise the money we need for roads, bridges and transit,” Chamber CEO Tom Donohue said.
Under Trump’s budget, the $200 billion in federal funding will be taken from other programs that are cut or eliminated, according to senior administration officials. The precise trade-offs aren’t designated.
Trump’s priorities include $100 billion for incentive funding to match local investments; $50 billion for rural projects distributed as block grants to governors; $20 billion for expanding loan programs and private bonds for roads, waterways and railways; $20 billion for transformative projects with a vision for the future; and $10 billion for federal building projects.
The federal government traditionally provided 80% of funding for qualified highway construction. But Trump’s incentive funding is projected to provide 10% or 20% of a project’s cost to generate $500 billion to $1 trillion in total investment, according to senior administration officials.
Local matching funds could come from sales or property taxes, or user fees. Tolls would be one way to spur private investment in roads or bridges. But they wouldn’t be financially justifiable everywhere.
“This is not a real infrastructure plan — it’s simply another scam, an attempt by this administration to privatize critical government functions, and create windfalls for their buddies on Wall Street,” DeFazio said.
“This fake proposal will not address the serious infrastructure needs facing this country.”
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.
The federal government traditionally provided 80% of funding for qualified road construction. Trump’s plan is to provide as little as 10%. SETH PERLMAN/AP