Connecting state and local government leaders
The president spoke to governors from around the U.S. at the White House on Monday about a range of topics.
While speaking to U.S. governors at the White House on Monday, President Trump reiterated his pledge to pump large sums of money toward upgrading the nation’s infrastructure.
The president also said he would have a “big statement” about the topic tomorrow night. That’s when Trump will make a joint address to Congress. Republican congressional leaders have yet to show much appetite for a large infrastructure investment package and are currently occupied with health care policy, as they seek to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also dubbed Obamacare.
“We’re going to start spending on infrastructure big,” Trump told the governors.
Trump decried the condition of the nation’s roadways, bridges and tunnels. He specifically voiced concern that tiles or other material might fall from the interior of roadway tunnels in New York City, such as the Lincoln Tunnel. “You’re driving and you see all this loose material,” he said.
Not much is known about where the money might come from for Trump’s infrastructure plan. A document issued during last year’s presidential campaign by two of his advisers focused heavily on tax breaks and private investment as a way to generate new project financing.
“We’re going to make it easier for states to invest in infrastructure,” the president said Monday.
During his remarks, Trump touched on a range of other topics as well including the Affordable Care Act, promised tax cuts, the forthcoming White House budget proposal and speeding up federal approvals for projects happening at the state level.
The president said his budget, set to be submitted to Congress next month, would feature a “historic increase” in defense spending, which would be offset by finding “greater savings and efficiencies across the federal government.” He added: “We’re going to do more with less.”
Governors from around the U.S. were gathered in the nation’s capital for their annual winter meeting. Over the weekend, the event was marked by strong disagreements between Democratic and Republican governors about possible changes to Medicaid, the program that provides health care access to lower income Americans.
Congressional lawmakers are weighing alterations to the program as they consider how to roll back the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid was expanded under the health care law.
Trump told the governors that with the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act states would have greater “flexibility.”
“Flexibility” is a term generally tied to GOP-backed proposals to restructure Medicaid funding that flows from the federal government to states so that it is subject to limits, either through per enrollee caps, or set-sized block grants. That federal funding is currently open-ended and rises and falls based on factors like enrollment and costs for care.
Trump also told the governors “we’re also going to do whatever we can to restore the authority of the states when that is the appropriate thing to do.” He added: “The governors are going to have a lot more decision-making ability than they have right now.”
That authority and decision-making ability may vary depending on the policy in question.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggested last week the federal government could step up enforcement against marijuana in states with laws that allow adults to use the drug recreationally.
Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.