Industry Groups Say President Trump’s Infrastructure Talk Must Translate Into Action
by Scott Braddock on February 8, 2018 at 8:52 AM
In his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump called for a massive $1.5 trillion initiative to “rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.”
“America is a nation of builders,” Trump said. “We built the Empire State Building in just one year. Is it not a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?” “I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he was “calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need.”
“Together, we can reclaim our building heritage," Trump said. "We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land. And we will do it with American heart, American hands, and American grit."
As the president mentioned, not all of that $1.5 trillion would be federal dollars.
Per Business Insider, "Despite the headline investment number, the infrastructure package will include only $200 billion in direct federal investment. Trump expects the other $1.3 trillion to come from a combination of local, state, and private investment, incentivized by the federal seed money."
Some industry groups praised the president’s words but also said “the time is long overdue for words to become action.”
Brian P. McGuire, president and CEO of Associated Equipment Distributors, said “every day there are numerous examples of structurally deficient bridges, dams and levees and inadequate roads, airports and pipes. Time is wasted in traffic or sitting on an overcrowded runway. Clean water is squandered as water mains break.”
“Lives are put at risk” as those problems go unaddressed, McGuire said. “Our infrastructure is the lifeblood of our economy,” he said. “It impacts our quality of life, the competitiveness of our businesses and the safety and security of our country. Our leaders in Washington can no longer forsake their responsibility to invest in the nation’s infrastructure in a long-term, sustainable manner.” "America's infrastructure is in dire straits right now," said Casey Dinges with the American Society of Civil Engineers. Last year, the group gave U.S. infrastructure a D+ grade. They estimate $2 trillion over the next 10 years needs to be invested to keep American infrastructure from falling apart.
Kristina Swallow, President of the ASCE said Mr. Trump’s attitude toward infrastructure investment is a positive first step. “Congress should seize this opportunity to provide better infrastructure to the American people in a bipartisan fashion by closing the infrastructure deficit, as President Trump proposed,” Swallow said. “Infrastructure investment is one area where both Democrats and Republicans agree. I urge Congress to develop legislation that increases federal investment in infrastructure, including fixing the Highway Trust Fund,” Swallow said. “This bill should make investments that provide substantial, long-term benefits to the economy, consider the cost of a project over its lifespan, and be built sustainably and resiliently to maximize investment.”
Swallow is correct that infrastructure investment enjoys bipartisan support. The politics of passing a major spending bill could prove difficult, however, for at least two reasons. First, many of Trump’s fellow Republicans may balk at adding significantly to the national debt. But if anyone can convince them it is the right thing to do it would be President Trump, who still enjoys high approval ratings among Republican primary voters.
Second, Congressional Democrats may be hesitant to hand the president a win on a major issue during an election year in which control of Congress could be up for grabs. In the video of the president’s speech above, you'll notice most Democrats are not standing and applauding with the Republicans when he talked about infrastructure.
The GOP has the sheer numbers right now to muscle a bill through the House of Representatives. But because of the Senate’s rules, at least nine Democratic senators would need to support this major legislation for it to make its way to Trump’s desk for his signature.