- In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Donald Trump made several proposals that could impact the construction industry, including calling on Congress to deliver a bill that would create $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment. This is an increase from the $1 trillion plan the president has been touting since before the 2016 election.
- Trump said the nation's highways, bridges and other public assets are "crumbling," and federal funds should be maximized through partnerships with state and local governments, as well as private-sector investment — a strategy that appeared in an alleged White House infrastructure document leaked last week. The president also said an infrastructure bill must reduce permitting time to one to two years from the current time period of up to 10 years.
- In his speech, Trump advocated for workforce training and a greater number of vocational schools, a welcome proposal to the labor-strapped construction industry. In addition, the president presented his immigration plan, which would ensure construction of the U.S.–Mexico border wall and create a path to citizenship for the approximately 1.8 million immigrants brought to the United States as children, 70,000 of which are reportedly working in the construction industry.
The next challenge for Trump will be to work with Congress if he hopes to to make the proposals in his speech a reality. In addition, although a supposed draft plan of his infrastructure program was leaked last week, the White House has not released any official details.
During his speech, the president continued to walk back negative comments he made about the potential for private investment in infrastructure projects, which should give public-private partnership (P3) advocates hope that state and local agencies, which could be tasked with providing 80% of project costs, will use this structure. Steven A. Nichols, partner at Rutan & Tucker in Orange County, CA, and co-chair of the firm's construction law group, said that, although $1.5 trillion might fall short of what it will take to address the nation's infrastructure shortfalls, P3s would help leverage limited government funds.
Not surprisingly, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) applauded the president's call for increased funding for career and technical education programs. Both groups have long been advocates for this sort of training as a way to create a new labor pipeline for the industry.
AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr also said that he was encouraged by the president's push to speed up permitting times. "Finding a way to make decisions in months, instead of years, while still holding projects to a high standard for approval," Sandherr said in a statement, "will save taxpayers billions, restore public confidence in our ability to invest wisely and continue to protect the environment."
ABC President and CEO Michael D. Bellaman said in a statement that the organization is witnessing "the positive effects that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is already having on job creation and company confidence. Thanks to tax savings, ABC members are planning to invest in new equipment, ideas and talent.”