AGC of America has been leading the charge in Washington to push Congress and the administration to deliver on President Trump’s campaign pledge to boost funding for repairing the country’s aging and over-burdened infrastructure. As part of that effort, we have built a broad coalition of business, government and labor groups; launched an intensive social and traditional media campaign; and continued our intensive traditional lobbying efforts.
Thanks in large part to these efforts, Congress and the Trump administration agreed to increase federal investments in infrastructure projects by $18.5 billion for fiscal year 2018, a 15 percent increase over the prior year, as part of the federal government funding bill enacted March 23. The funding measure allocates a total of $139 billion for a wide range of federal construction investments. This funding comes in addition to the $21 billion allocated for disaster aid construction projects enacted as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act in February.
About half of that $139 billion figure—$69 billion—goes to highway and transportation construction; $10 billion for various military construction accounts and $6 billion for Army Corps Civil Works programs; $7 billion for low-income housing and development programs; and $4 billion for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Congress also funded $1.6 billion for pre-Trump administration border fence projects.
Yet even as we have been successful in getting a shortterm increase in infrastructure funding, it is also becoming increasingly likely that Congress will not act on the President’s call to pass a single, long-term measure that includes an additional $200 billion in federal funding for infrastructure. That is because many Democrats appear unwilling to give President Trump a victory heading into the 2018 mid-term elections while many Republicans are hesitant to back a big spending bill so soon after enacting a large tax cut and massive fiscal year 2018 spending bill.
It looks increasingly likely that Congress will instead seek to further boost infrastructure funding through a series of smaller bills that focus on specific types of federal projects. The first two such measures will focus on federal funding for airport improvements and port, waterways and coastal erosion funding. While less than ideal, addressing infrastructure funding this way appears to be the most politically viable path available at this point.
Of course, we are not taking anything for granted. That is why AGC of America will continue to lead several broad coalitions representing construction, business, government and labor groups that are dedicated to pushing for new infrastructure funding. We will continue to leverage our Better Infrastructure social media campaign (follow us on Facebook.com/ BetterInfrastructure) to pressure Congress to act. We will continue educating national, state and local media about the need for new infrastructure. And we will continue to work the halls of Congress to make sure our voice is heard and the nation’s infrastructure needs are met.
Our message will remain consistent: the best way to make sure our economy continues to thrive and our nation continues to lead the world is to improve our roads and bridges, keep our water safe, expand our ports and make sure we have reliable and affordable power. If we do that, our businesses will succeed, our communities will prosper and our quality of life will continue to improve.
Stephen E. Sandherr is the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America.