Trump Short on Infrastructure Details in State of the Union

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., watch, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., watch, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The president said it's time to deal with ‘crumbling infrastructure,’ but delivered no concrete ideas on how to invest.

WASHINGTON — President Trump in his State of the Union address Tuesday expressed optimism Republicans and Democrats could work together on an infrastructure package, but offered no details on what his administration would support.

“Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure. I know that the Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill, and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting edge industries of the future,” Trump said well into his speech. “This is not an option. This is a necessity.”

Infrastructure played a much larger role during Trump’s first State of the Union last year. But the administration’s eventual $1.5 trillion proposal, which relied on state and local governments putting up much of the dollars, along with private investment, never went anywhere.

This year, state and local government officials said before the president’s annual speech that they not only wanted him to talk about spending money on roads, airports, public transit and other projects, but offer specifics on how to proceed. “I’m going to be in the gallery tonight, and I hope that the two most spoken words are ‘investment' and ‘infrastructure,” said Ron Nirenberg, mayor of San Antonio, Texas, hours before the speech.

After the address, Democratic lawmakers criticized Trump for being heavy on rhetoric but light on substance. “Exhibit A” was the subject of infrastructure, said U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat and member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

“He ran on infrastructure. His election night speech in 2016 was about how we need to modernize our infrastructure,” Van Hollen said. “Two sentences, no plan.”

But U.S. Rep. French Hill, an Arkansas Republican, said the president made a “strong case” for working together on issues of common importance like infrastructure. Hill did express disappointment that $21 billion in additional infrastructure funds appropriated last year hasn’t all been spent and the administration hasn’t pushed efforts to streamline projects.

“I’d like to see a regulatory reform process that lowers the costs for our counties and cities to even complete infrastructure projects because they're so expensive per mile, and a lot of that’s due to the regulatory costs,” Hill said.

Earlier in the day, lawmakers and others attending the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s annual infrastructure event focused on what they thought was possible.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said any bill will hinge on the White House coming to the bargaining table. He called last year’s infrastructure proposal from the Trump administration “a thought piece that went into the wastebasket somewhere” and wanted something “specific” during the president’s address.

After the November elections that saw the House flip to Democrats, lawmakers from both parties had emphasized that infrastructure’s time might finally have come, saying it is the one issue where they might find some common ground.

Still, despite some agreement, it has remained unclear what the path forward would be to pay for any major proposal. Efforts to raise the federal gas tax, for example, have been rejected by many Republicans, particularly in the Senate, who again would remain key players in any discussion.

For his part, DeFazio has suggested raising about $500 billion for spending on highways, bridges and public transit by indexing federal gasoline and diesel taxes to adjust for inflation and then capping them. Currently, the gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and the diesel tax is 24.4 cents per gallon, as they have been since they were last raised in 1993.

Hiking the gas tax is supported by the U.S. Chamber. Such “user fees” should be increased, said Thomas Donohue, chamber president and CEO, at the group’s event before the State of the Union.

In 2018, the chamber proposed an infrastructure plan that included increasing the gas tax 25 cents to fix the Highway Trust Fund like 39 states have done—some two or three times.

The White House has not explicitly come out against increasing the gas tax, which Donohue said was “a positive.”

DeFazio estimated the country has about $2 trillion in infrastructure needs over the next decade, slightly more than half of which falls under his committee’s purview of airports, harbors, wastewater and surface transportation. A five-year infrastructure bill is due Oct. 1, 2020, he said, with his hope that funding from an infrastructure bill passed this year could flow through the longer-term bill.

Trump’s light treatment of infrastructure contrasted starkly with the goals of the National Governors Association, National Association of Counties, and U.S. Conference of Mayors—all of which are making federal spending on everything from roads to transit a chief aim this year.

“One of the greatest opportunities for bipartisan action at the federal level is reinvesting in America’s infrastructure,” said Matthew Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties, in response to the president’s address. “For counties of all sizes—rural, urban and suburban—infrastructure is at the top of our priority list. This includes advanced broadband, water infrastructure and workforce housing.”

Counties account for 46 percent of all public road miles, 40 percent of bridges, 78 percent of public transportation systems, and a third of airports, according to NACo.

Rebuilding infrastructure will require a federal partner that preserves local decision-making, streamlines federal regulations and directly invests in local projects, Chase added.

National League of Cities President Karen Freeman-Wilson, who is the mayor of Gary, Indiana, said Trump should have provided more than just the “brief mention” of infrastructure in his address.

“Local leaders agree with the president on an important point: Passing a comprehensive infrastructure bill is not an option, it is a necessity,” she said in a statement. “As Congress works on an infrastructure plan, we don’t need band-aid solutions; we need bipartisan leadership.”

Dave Nyczepir is News Editor at Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Integrating Complete and Green Streets for Climate-Resilient Sustainable Streets
San Mateo County, CA, USA
Major improvements in Service issue resolution at St. Catharines Transit
2012 First Street Louth, St. Catharines, ON L2S 3V9, Canada
Quick Launch of Ferry Reservation System Provides Access for Point Roberts Residents During COVID-19
Bellingham, WA, USA

NEXT STORY: California Warms to Solar Homes; Other States May Give a Cold Shoulder

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.