President Trump Unveils Infrastructure; President Backs 25 Cent Gas Tax Increase

Written by  Stephen E. Sandherr

As many of you probably saw, President Trump released his longawaited $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan on Feb. 12 and later that same week publicly backed a 25-cent federal gas tax increase to help make the Highway Trust Fund solvent. While both developments are significant, the fact is that it will take a lot of pressure from members of the construction industry on Congress to get them to enact any significant new infrastructure measure.

The Trump administration infrastructure plan includes $200 billion in additional direct federal funding over the next ten years. That funding, according to the administration, would largely be used to leverage more state, local and private investment in infrastructure projects and, according to White House estimates, generate over $1 trillion in infrastructure construction. The $200 billion in federal funding would be divided among several new federal grant programs, further financing low-cost federal loan programs benefiting infrastructure construction, and creating a capital budget-like program for federal real estate construction projects (i.e., office buildings) that would allow for long-term and dedicated federal building investment.

The administration’s plan puts forth several proposals to streamline the federal environmental review and permitting processes—limiting it to no longer than two years—and to improve federal workforce development programs—including Pell grants and the Perkins Career and Technical Education Program—so that more of those programs’ dollars could be used for vocational training and apprenticeship programs. Many proposals in the plan echo the AGC recommendations we shared with the presidential transition team and administration in the AGC Agenda to Rebuild our Infrastructure & our Craft Workforce and AGC Reforms for Improving Federal Environmental Review and Permitting proposals.

It was also widely reported that the president—at a bipartisan meeting at the White House on Feb. 14— endorsed a 25-cent gas tax increase, which would raise $394 billion for the Highway Trust Fund. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce—with AGC’s support—put forth such a gas tax increase proposal in January.

While there are several elements of this plan that AGC supports, there is also significant room for improvement. But the most important thing about the plan is that is should serve as the impetus for Congress to enact significant new federal infrastructure funding. That is why AGC of America has launched a vigorous grassroots, social media, lobbying and traditional media campaign in support of new federal infrastructure funding.

Committees in the House and Senate will commence hearings on the president’s plan in early March. It is unclear whether members will draft a single infrastructure bill or, as many suspect, cut the President’s proposal into several pieces. A two-year budget deal reached in early February sets the stage for another potential government shutdown on March 23, when funding for the government, again, runs out. Given election year realities and Congress’s knack for only passing major legislation when it must, AGC is eyeing March 23 and the next government funding bill as a major vehicle for moving the construction industry’s infrastructure priorities.

But the best way to ensure that Congress enacts new infrastructure funding is for AGC members to make their voice heard. We have been, and will continue, sending out legislative action alerts urging members to contact their Congressional delegation. And we are urging all members to follow our social media campaign at facebook.com/BetterInfrastructure to send Facebook and Twitter messages to Congress. We will also continue knocking on doors throughout Capitol Hill and holding media events in key districts to push for new federal infrastructure funding.

Ultimately, we need to build a bipartisan coalition in Congress to overcome opposition from anti-Trump liberals and anti-infrastructure conservatives to get new infrastructure passed. The more members of AGC who make their voice heard, the better our chances will be of getting some significant, and needed, new infrastructure funding enacted.

Stephen E. Sandherr is the CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America



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