The White House unveiled four basic principles of an infrastructure investment bill today, Feb. 12, and charged Congress with making a deal on the details. The president’s draft plan allocates $200 billion of federal funds over a decade as seed money for states, local governments and the private sector to leverage for a total investment of $1.5 trillion.
“It’s a welcomed and necessary way to start a very overdue conversation on infrastructure investment. We look forward to more in-depth conversations with Congress as they create a bill. We urge lawmakers to create a robust and long-term solution to our country’s chronically underfunded infrastructure,” said Michael W. Johnson, IOM, NSSGA president and CEO. “To meet the president’s goal, NSSGA supports a wide variety of funding options, especially shoring up the Highway Trust Fund. America wants and needs strong infrastructure investment, and we need action now.”
The White House plan is an opening bid to further negotiations between the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on how to meet the administration’s four stated objectives for an infrastructure bill.
- Stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending
- Shorten the permitting process
- Invest in rural infrastructure
- Improve training to attract qualified workers
The administration expects Congress to create a detailed bill that adheres to the four principles and includes financing measures, much like the tax reform bill that passed in 2017. There are at least six committees in the House and five in the Senate that will consider elements of the plan.
About $100 billion is to be distributed from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection agencies through grants. Project sponsors, states and agencies would request funds for specific needs. There would be $50 billion for rural grants, and $20 billion for new transformative projects that could attract public-private partnerships.
The White House plan also does not specifically allocate funds for any particular mode, so surface transportation construction projects are likely to compete with electrical grids, ports, airports or water infrastructure for funding. This initial plan also does not include a specific pay-for, as the funding comes from cuts to existing domestic spending programs.
The White House is drafting a memo to 17 federal agencies seeking to speed up the time it takes to secure environmental permits for infrastructure projects. This memo, separate from the infrastructure bill, would help focus the administration on streamlining the permitting process for critical projects.