President Trump has finally unveiled his infrastructure package calling for a $1.5 trillion ten year investment in the nation’s infrastructure. The plan has been rumored for months and a full, 55-page plan entitled, “Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America” can be found here.
While the Administration has made good on making infrastructure investment a priority, the one significant oversight in the plan is that it does NOT resolve the looming federal Highway Trust Fund solvency problem nor does it have a dedicated funding stream to pay for proposed increased spending.
Pennsylvania relies on federal dollars from the Highway Trust Fund to pay for about 40% or our highway capital program. Without a “fix” for the Trust Fund, by the end of 2021, Congress will yet again be faced with how to find nearly $18 billion per year just to avoid drastic reductions in federal highway spending—something that would result in Pennsylvania losing nearly 1/3 of its federal highway funds.
As the plan was being released, members of the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition, including APC staff representatives from the City of York, Capital Area Transit and the Laborers International—were meeting with Congressman Scott Perry (R-York). Rep. Perry, who is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, commented that he was disappointed the plan didn’t outline ways to actual pay for the $1.5 trillion package, but was encouraged by the efficiency and reform measures in the environmental permitting area. He indicated that these reforms will be crucial to achieving the majority of votes needed for any such infrastructure plan to be enacted by Congress this year.
The real question about this plan is how will states and local governments come up with matching funds the plan appears to require? Some highlights of the plan include:
- Calls for $1.5 trillion in new investment over the next 10 years by “leveraging” federal dollars and resources;
- Focuses on incentivizing state and local governments and private sector entities to use their money to capture some $200 billion in new federal infrastructure spending;
- This $200 billion is broken down in several ways but would establish various incentive programs: Infrastructure Incentives Program; Rural Infrastructure Program; Transformative Projects Program; Infrastructure Financing Programs; Broaden Private Activity Bonds; and Federal Capital Financing Fund. Of course, all the incentives will need further definition;
- Shortens the process for project approval to 2 years or less by making significant changes to the environmental review and approval process for transportation construction projects;
- Proposes reforms to various federal education and job training programs for workforce development endeavors.
APC’s national association, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) has provided a nine-page analysis of the Trump plan and the Administration’s proposed budget. Go here.
During our meeting, Perry lamented the atmosphere in Washington and the reluctance of Congress to cooperate. It remains to be seen if this proposal is one that can gain ground in the nation’s capital. The Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition will continue to coordinate meetings with Pennsylvania’s Congressional Delegation to push for a dedicated long-term financial fix for the Highway Trust Fund.