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Trump's $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Is Back

The administration's new $1 trillion infrastructure plan is light on both details and free market reforms.

Ron Sachs/SIPA/NewscomRon Sachs/SIPA/Newscom

President Donald Trump's 2020 budget request to Congress has been released, and with it is a renewed call for a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. This 13-digit proposal is a notably scaled back version of Trump's previous plans, both in the amount of new money the president is looking to spend and in reforms he's hoping to make.

"Decades after building-out the core of our infrastructure, much of it is in urgent need of repair, expansion, and modernization," reads a fact-sheet released alongside the budget. "Without continued investment and maintenance, America's infrastructure will continue to age, deteriorate in quality and performance, and gradually contribute less to American economic output."

To right the situation, the White House's 2020 budget calls for $1 trillion in infrastructure investments, at least $200 billion of which would be made up of new federal spending.

If this sounds familiar, it is because it is roughly the same plan the administration released in February 2018, which promised $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments kickstarted by $200 billion in new federal spending.

That plan was fairly detailed, coming with some funding formulas for that $200 billion in new spending that put an emphasis on projects that could attract, state, local, or even private investment, and which would not need ongoing federal support.

The February 2018 plan also included regulatory reforms that would have made it easier to privatize airports and toll interstate highways. Private Activity Bonds—tax-exempt bonds issued by private sponsors to raise capital for infrastructure projects—would likewise have been expanded.

That proposal died on the vine as Congress became preoccupied with other issues and Trump failed to advocate for it.

This new proposal, while still including some broad language about how the federal government shouldn't be "the primary funder of the Nation's transportation systems" is otherwise pretty light on details.

Of that $200 billion in new spending, the administration has specific plans for only $10 billion of it. The White House says that it will "will work with the Congress on allocating the remaining amount."

Unlike the White House's February 2018 infrastructure plan—which envisioned a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan as an addition to existing federal efforts—the budget documents released today suggest that the Trump administration will be counting a renewal of current surface transportation spending toward its $1 trillion plan.

This latest budget document is "less specific, and it relies slightly less on the private sector than other proposals" had, says Baruch Feigenbaum, a transportation policy expert with the Reason Foundation, which publishes this website.

That change, says Feigenbaum, could be a nod to the fact that the White House knows it will not be able to get many of its infrastructure priorities through a Democrat-controlled House. It could also reflect an internal change in the administration's priorities.

"Many of the architects of his original proposal are no longer in the administration," said Feigenbaum, meaning the White House could have "folks with a different list of priorities that are not as strictly free market as they once were."

A good example of this can be seen in the portion of Trump's budget proposal dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The president's request includes $3.3 billion for updating the agency's air traffic control operations to improve safety and reduce delays.

Notably missing is any reference to spinning off air traffic control operations, currently run by the FAA, into a separate nonprofit corporation. This is something the administration has supported in the past as a way of modernizing air traffic control services, and references to the idea were included in both previous presidential budget requests.

That it is now missing form this budget proposal is an indication that the Trump administration's plans for infrastructure reform are now less ambitious and less free market.

Photo Credit: Ron Sachs/SIPA/Newscom

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    Good thing Congress controls the purse and will spend far more.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    The only thing we can hope for is the democrats to,reflexively oppose the bad orange men and gridlock this thing from happening.

  • Flinch||

    Wait until Boehner 3.0 appears on the scene. The party of the stupid is going to outbid dems yet again, and hasn't swerved one inch from their course for the rocks. I cut Hastert a little slack as he was blackmailed, but those who followed in chasing national bankruptcy as a party goal have done so with glee and exuberance.

  • Cy||

    At this point, what difference does it make?

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Will the money go to shovel ready projects?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Shovels at $500 each....check

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    I guess it's not DOD work. Too cheap.

  • John||

    If we would cut other spending and revoke some of the environmental and labor laws so that these things would actually get built, this would not be a bad thing. If the government is going to spend money, and make no mistake it is and there is nothing we can do about it, it would be nice if it spent money in a way where we at least have something useful to show for it rather than just pissing it away entirely.

  • Dillinger||

    War on Infrastructure.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Can potholes be declared national emergencies?

  • Rich||

    And "speed humps"?

  • Dillinger||

    guess War on Infrastructure wouldn't work b/c progress can be evidenced.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The Democrats must be seething with Jealousy.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Trump owns every talking point that they have that resonates with voters. (Criminal justice reform, ending wars, tax reform, jobs, economy....)

    Democrats are stuck with Socialism, faux hate crimes, and banning planes in 10 years.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    And if Trump wins reelection, they will not be able to figure out why. Must be racists.

  • Vince Smith||

    loveconstitution1789 It's funny how you continue to kiss Trump's butt even though he's clearly not a fiscal conservative. His infrastructure plan is nuts. He's adding trillions to the debt. Trump isn't owning anything; his approval rating is a joke. He's unpopular in all the rust belt states he barely won in 2016. His tariffs are hurting farmers. We need a real libertarian lime Rand Paul as president. Not this clown.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "That it is now missing form this budget proposal is an indication that the Trump administration's plans for infrastructure reform are now less ambitious and less free market."

    The national highway system is not a free market. Duh.

    The Free Market Uber Alles, except...
    Corporate limited liability
    Government monopolies in "intellectual property"
    Differential tax treatment for wages and capital gains
    Tax on income instead of property
    Violation of Lockean Proviso

    Funny. It's seems like Reason only choose free markets when corporate interests profit.

    When Reason says "free markets", they mean corporate profits. And corporations are not free market either. Government creations, with government privileges.

    A lot of rage against violations of the free market. Except when it helps those who Own over those who Labor.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    A lot of rage against violations of the free market. Except when it helps those who Own over those who Labor.

    Workers of the world, unite!

  • Vince Smith||

    I see no difference between Trump and Bush on fiscal policy. Trump is another neocon who wants to spend even more on the military.

  • WillPaine||

    Here's a wild thought; train a lot of the kids who want to join the military to work on the infrastructure; for those looking for kicks, put them on the high steel. When a kid in Las Vegas can hit any address in Kabul, with a Hell fire missile, with the push of a few buttons, why do we have over 700 military bases around the world. (Hint; Afghanistan's GDP is what now?); oh, yeah, 80% opium, and they were taught how to make diacetyl about 20 years ago. I bet Eric would love to send his boys in and take the country over; ya' think? Wish 'em well.

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