Trump’s halfhearted infrastructure plan

Everybody seems to favor new and improved roads and bridges. It’s finding the money to pay for them that’s the problem.

President Trump will unveil a long-awaited infrastructure plan on Monday with a lofty goal: to stimulate $1.5 trillion in new spending to modernize the nation’s transportation and public works systems. But the plan won’t identify any new revenue sources to finance those projects. Instead, it will call for killing other programs and shifting that money over to infrastructure.

“They’re not serious about infrastructure,” says a representative of the business community familiar with the White House plans. “They don’t want to put any new money into it. They’re going to use it as political bait, to portray the Democrats as getting in the way of rebuilding the country.”

Though Trump is calling for $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure spending, most of that wouldn’t be federal money. The Trump plan only calls for $200 billion in new federal funds, above what Washington already spends, which would be taken from other programs. Those funds would be used in a variety of ways to seed or incentivize projects. The rest of the money would come from states, cities and private sources.

Trump also wants to speed the permitting process, requiring approvals in 24 months or less. His plan would cut back on bureaucratic overlap by identifying a single agency to take the lead for every permit required, eliminating duplicative procedures. “The process we have in the United States just takes way too long and is not really focused on outcomes,” a senior White House official told reporters on February 10. “We want to shorten the process while at the same time preserving environmental protections.”

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