— -- President Donald Trump unveiled his plan to fix the nation's infrastructure Monday, outlining a strategy he says will spark "new investment" to solve the problem, but Democrats call the proposal insufficient.
“Washington will no longer be a roadblock to progress. Washington will be your partner,” the president told local and state officials invited to the White House.
The president's proposal calls for $200 billion in new federal funds that the administration anticipates will “stimulate $1.5 trillion in new investment in infrastructure,” with states, local governments and private partnerships expected to bear the brunt of the financial burden for achieving one of the president’s key campaign promises.
The president welcomed some governors and mayors to the White House for a discussion of infrastructure, in which he sought to parallel what he is trying to do at the federal level with his experience in business. He specifically touted the story of the ice skating rink project in New York City he said he took over after it had been mismanaged, citing it as an example of how he wants to streamline what he said would be an “unprecedented” investment in the nation’s infrastructure.
“When I did the Wollman Rink, it was seven years they couldn't get it built. It would have been forever, they couldn’t get it built, and I did it in a few months at a much smaller price,” Trump said. “I said, you know, I like to able to have my daughter Ivanka, who is will - I would like her to be able to going ice skating before she doesn’t want to ice skate.”
“We did it for a tiny fraction of the cost. And it is really no different with a roadway. No different with a bridge or a tunnel or any of the things we'll be fixing,” the president continued.
The White House infrastructure outline features four overarching goals: stimulate $1.5 trillion in new investment and infrastructure; shorten the permitting process to two years; invest in rural infrastructure; and make improvements in training the workforce that would be generated as a part of the plan.
HOW WILL THE MONEY BE ALLOCATED?Describing how $1.5 trillion in new investment would be generated out of just $200 billion in federal funds, an administration official said that $100 billion of the money will go towards incentives for state and local governments to use in starting up infrastructure projects. Twenty billion will go towards expanding loan programs and private activity bonds. Fifty billion will be directed towards improvements solely in rural infrastructure in the form of block grants to state governors, allowing them to select what projects to direct the funding towards. Another $20 billion will go to “transformative programs,” or infrastructure projects rooted in promoting new or innovative ideas. The final $10 billion will go towards a “capital financing fund” that will fund office-building infrastructure the federal government is already building.
Altogether, the official said the $1.5 trillion prediction is based on “state and local governments - how will they likely respond to this program.” Democrats have criticized the $200 billion in federal spending in the past as insufficient compared to the needs facing the nation's roads, bridges and waterways.
WHAT ELSE IS IN THE PLAN?The administration official said the plan also seeks to expand eligibility for Pell Grants and adding more flexibility to license requirements for people looking to enter some type of trade rather than a four-year college.
“So if you're licensed to perform a trade in one part of the country, you can move to another part of the country and transfer that license,” the official said. “And then expand out the use of apprenticeships to help those that are interested in going to trades, develop their skills, and move more gradually into the workforce.”
WHERE’S THE MONEY COMING FROM?The administration official said the $200 billion in funding is included in the president’s budget request, also out Monday, and said the administration plans to “pay for the $200 billion out of savings from other areas of the federal budget.”
The official would not say where exactly the $200 billion is being cut from in other areas of the budget – though they said “there are some reductions in things like transit funding and TIGER grants, and things where the administration thinks that infrastructure funds haven’t been spent efficaciously.”
HOW WILL THE PRESIDENT SELL IT? The administration official said to expect the president to travel in the coming weeks and months around the country to promote the infrastructure plan – along with Cabinet officials similar to how the White House sold the tax plan.