The much-anticipated plan to modernize Donald Trump’s US infrastructure is for some “a scam”.
Trump wants Congress to authorize the US $ 200,000 million for a decade to spend on roads, highways, ports, and airports. And he expects the states and the private sector to stimulate development with another US $ 1.3 trillion.
If those who support him defend the need to modernize the country’s aging infrastructures, critics say it seeks to actually privatize it, benefiting corporations with carelessness for the environment. The project, an electoral promise of Trump, is part of a US $ 4.4 billion budget proposal that abandons the Republicans’ long-standing goal of balancing federal accounts over the course of a decade.
“We have spent the US $ 7 billion in the Middle East, US $ 7 billion. What a mistake, ” the president said from the White House on Monday.
“And we’re trying to build roads and bridges, and fix bridges that are falling and it’s hard for us to get the money and it’s crazy,” he continued.
What does the proposal say?
A senior government official who told the media last weekend said the US $ 200 billion investment would be paid for “savings from other areas of the federal budget.
” The plan calls for the US $ 50 billion of public funds to be used to modernize infrastructure in rural areas, many of which voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. The proposal includes $ 100,000 million for an incentive program “to stimulate additional dedicated funds from states, localities and the private sector.”
Dedicated state funds must, by law, be earmarked or set aside for a specific purpose.The US government also wants to obtain the US $ 20,000 million in loans and bonds to finance projects that include services such as transportation and water. The bill allows states to add or increase tolls on interstate highways, and charge fees for using rest areas on highways.
However, it prohibits states from charging for “essential services such as water or access to toilets.”
The plan also seeks to reduce the time required to obtain environmental permits. The Trump government plans to sell Reagan National and Dulles International airports, near Washington DC, as part of the project.
“The federal government owns and operates some infrastructure that would be more appropriate to be in the hands of the state, local or private entities,” the plan says.
A legislative bridge to nowhere?
Analysis of Anthony Zurcher, correspondent of the BBC in Washington
If there is something that politicians love, it is spending money on infrastructure. It creates jobs, pleases businesses and gives officials something tangible to highlight when voters ask what they have done for them lately. So it’s a pretty remarkable achievement that the Trump administration has devised an infrastructure plan that is likely to enjoy limited popularity and be difficult to pass in Congress. The main problem for the White House is that the proposal does not designate new funds for bridges, railways, roads, and tunnels. Instead, he recommends withdrawing money from other government programs, although it leaves Congress with the unenviable task of determining where to cut.
In addition, the plan relies heavily on states and localities to pay for projects. Generally, their budgets are always tight and recent cuts to federal deductions by state and local taxes will make it more difficult to generate profits. Then there is the private financing component in the proposal. Although it seems attractive in theory, charging tolls and fees that fill corporate pockets have traditionally been unpopular with Americans. This does not mean that an infrastructure law will not be passed. The odds are, however, that what Congress passes will be very different from what the White House presented Monday.
The proposal already faces tough opposition. It does not offer as much new funding from the federal government as the Democrats want. They have advocated for an investment in public infrastructure of five times the amount proposed by Trump.
“After a year full of empty boasting, the president finally unveiled a weak infrastructure scam that does not meet what the communities in the United States need,” said Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“After a year full of empty boasts, the president finally unveiled a weak infrastructure scam” Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democratic minority in the US House of Representatives
On the right, anti-deficit hawks are likely to reject any new spending unless savings can be found elsewhere in the budget. Some critics say that the government’s plan is an attempt to privatize the country’s infrastructure, transferred the burden of the costs to the states, which in turn would pass to the citizens.
Environmentalists, on the other hand, point out that the idea of shortening the review process to grant permits would increase the risks to vulnerable wildlife.
” It’s a scam to line the pockets of corporate polluters by eviscerating environmental protections, ” said the Center for American Progress, a liberal-trend think tank.
But a prominent business group had nothing but praise for the president’s plan.
“It could help us reclaim our legitimate place as a global leader in the true infrastructure of the 21st century,” said Jay Timmons, director of the National Association of Manufacturers. (NAM, for its acronym in English).
What happens now?
The government explained that the proposal is a starting point for the negotiations.But Trump has made it a legislative priority for this year when the November parliamentary elections are coming.
The president met with state and local officials on Monday, including the governors of the states of Wisconsin, Louisiana, Virginia and Maine.
Trump will try to sell the proposal to congressional leaders next Wednesday.