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The president indicated to governors on Monday that he’s holding out hope for a public works package.
President Trump urged governors on Monday to press congressional lawmakers for a significant infrastructure bill, legislation that has proven to be elusive despite the president identifying it as one of his priorities throughout his time in office.
“On infrastructure, I would like you to call your senators and call your congressmen and women and get it done, because I'm ready,” the president told governors gathered at the White House according to a transcript of his remarks. “I want to sign. I am totally ready.”
Trump earlier this month in his State of the Union address suggested an infrastructure package could gain bipartisan support, but provided few details on what he would want it to look like.
The administration rolled out an infrastructure blueprint last year that called for $200 billion in direct federal funding, with about half that sum going to a competitive grant program that would’ve favored states and localities bringing more non-federal matching dollars to the table.
Lawmakers did boost funding for some existing infrastructure-related programs in spending legislation last year.
But identifying adequate funding sources remains a stumbling block for a more ambitious package. Raising federal taxes on gas and diesel fuel, traditionally a key source of transportation funding, remains a divisive idea on Capitol Hill, especially among Republicans.
Complicating the funding picture further, the nation is facing an annual federal budget deficit of about $900 billion in 2019, according to Congressional Budget Office projections. Meanwhile, federal debt held by the public is projected to reach $16.6 trillion by the end of 2019, based on CBO's estimates, about 78 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and nearly twice its average over the past 50 years.
Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.