Industry groups favor infrastructure bill details, but question funding
UPDATE, Feb. 13, 2018: Industry groups, including the Associated General Contractors of America, Associated Builders and Contractors and Construction Employers of America, issued statements reacting to President Donald Trump's 55-page infrastructure outline. Although they generally applaud it as a step in the right direction, questions remain about the ability to fund the plan. Scroll down to read statements from each of the groups.
- President Trump today unveiled details of his infrastructure bill, in which he requests that Congress stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure investment throughout the next decade, shorten the process for approving projects to two years or less, address unmet rural infrastructure needs, empower state and local authorities and train the American workforce. Only $200 billion of the total $1.5 trillion would come from the federal government; the rest is expected to financed by states, localities and public-private partnerships.
- The Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America is divided into four parts: Funding and financing infrastructure improvements, additional provisions for infrastructure improvements, infrastructure permitting improvement and workforce development.
- In a note to Congress, Trump wrote that "my administration's plan addresses more than traditional infrastructure — like roads, bridges and airports — but addresses other needs like drinking and wastewater systems, waterways, water resources, energy, rural infrastructure, public lands, veterans' hospitals, and Brownfield and Superfund sites."
Trump wrote to Congress that passing an infrastructure bill of this magnitude will "strengthen the economy, make our country more competitive, reduce the costs of goods and services for American families, and enable Americans to build their lives on top of the best infrastructure in the world."
Part one: addresses funding and financing infrastructure improvements, which includes an infrastructure incentives program that will encourage increased state, local and private investment. States and localities would receive investments in the form of grants; $100 billion will be made available for this incentives program.
States also will be incentivized to address rural infrastructure needs; $50 billion will be allocated toward the Rural Infrastructure Program for capital investments in rural infrastructure investments.
Other details under funding and financing pertain to the Transformative Projects Program, which will provide federal funding and technical assistance for "bold, innovative and transformative infrastructure projects that could dramatically improve infrastructure;" infrastructure financing programs; public lands infrastructure, which would establish an Interior Maintenance Fund; disposition of federal real property; and creating the Federal Capital Financing Fund.
Part two: addresses transportation, water infrastructure, veterans affairs and land revitalization (brownfield/superfund reform). Some key points include giving states the flexibility to toll interstates and invest those revenues in infrastructure, authorize federal land managements agencies to use contracting methods available to states, eliminate constraints on use of public-private and public-public partnerships in transit, apply FAST Act streamlining provisions to rail projects and shorten the statute of limitations and reduce barriers to alternative project delivery for airports.
Part three: addresses infrastructure permitting. Improvements would create a new expedited structure for environmental reviews, put more decision making in the hands of each state and enhance coordination between state and federal reviews, and authorize pilot programs that allow agencies to experiment with new approaches to environmental reviews and enhance environmental protections.
Part four: addresses workforce development. Provisions aim to establish policies that will help Americans secure stable, well-paying jobs. Proposals include expanding Pell Grant eligibility to high-quality, short-term programs; reforming career and technical education, including reforming the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program; and strengthening ties to the workforce for college students through the Federal Work Study program. The proposal also outlines empowering workers by reforming licensing requirements for those who seek employment on an infrastructure project.
Industry groups commented about the proposed infrastructure bill. They overall were pleased with the step forward, but did express reservations about the funding.
The Associated General Contractors of America issued a statement that the plan should serve as impetus for legislation to improve aging and over-burdened public works. CEO Stephen E. Sandherr said in a statement: "[This release] signals the start of what should be a timely, bipartisan and bicameral process to identify the best ways to fund and finance desperately needed improvements to our public infrastructure."
He continued, "At the same time, as the president’s own proposal makes clear, Congress must identify ways to address chronic funding shortfalls affecting the federal Highway Trust Fund that have put needed highway, bridge and transit improvements at risk too many times during the past decade. And Congress must also identify effective and long-term ways to fund other infrastructure improvements that are just as vital to our continued economic success as is the surface transportation program."
The Associated Builders and Contractors applauded the outline. President and CEO Michael D. Bellaman issued the following statement: "ABC is pleased that the president's plan mirrors many of the key principles ABC believes will deliver the most value to taxpayers. For example, addressing regulatory burdens, such as streamlining the federal infrastructure permitting process, will reduce costs and increase the speed of project approval and completion. And expanding efforts to train the next generation of skilled workers will give more Americans the chance to take advantage of the jobs created by these infrastructure projects and help reduce the construction industry’s workforce shortage."
The Construction Employers of America (CEA) thanked the president for identifying and addressing infrastructure as a need, but questioned the funding aspect. "We are concerned how this level of investment can be achieved with only $200 billion in real Federal dollars," said Jack Jacobson, spokesperson for CEA in a statement, before continuing on that the plan is a good starting point for conversations and priorities.
"CEA is also pleased that the president’s proposal recognizes the importance of ensuring a sufficient workforce to revitalize and sustain America’s infrastructure investments," he said.
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