TRANSPORTATION

Dems say federal infrastructure spending plan falls short

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

During the campaign, candidate Trump promised a trillion dollar infrastructure funding plan that had even Democrats swooning. Even at his State of the Union address last month, the president was still dangling the T-word.

“Tonight, I’m calling on Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment that our country so desperately needs,” he said during the address, adding, “Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment, to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit.”

But, the trillion point five the president has talked about for over a year is an aspiration that depends on $1.3 billion coming from elsewhere to reach the goal. The plan announced by the White House Monday commits only $200 billion in federal dollars over the next decade:

–The first $100 billion goes to create an incentive program, a place where states and localities will have to go looking to match funds they’ve raised from, well, you know.

–$20 billion goes to a so-called Transformative Projects Program, set aside for big ideas, which the White House says must have a significant positive impact on states, cities and localities, something like a Gateway Tunnel project.

–$20 billion will go to expanding already-existing infrastructure financing programs.

–$10 billion will go to a Federal Capital Revolving Fund, intended to make it easier for localities to buy rather than lease federal property for projects.

–The final $50 billion will create a Rural Infrastructure Program.

“This is a common sense and bipartisan plan that every member of Congress should support,” the president said Monday. “I look forward to working with them and we’re going to get the American people roads that are fixed, and bridges that are fixed. And if they don’t want to support it, that’s going to be up to them.”

The minority party Democrats, who have their own infrastructure ideas that include the federal government footing most of the bill, have been preparing for the bad news for weeks.

“It always involves mainly funding contributed by state and local governments and privatization,” said Rep. Frank Pallone recently. “In other words, you build a highway and some private company builds it, and they put in place a toll and they get the money from the tolls to pay for it. I mean, that’s not what we need. We need federal dollars.”

Especially when it comes to the Gateway Tunnel, potentially the country’s biggest infrastructure project, and critical to the continued economic viability of the tri-state region, not to mention your own commute. Gov. Murphy on Monday tried to stay positive.

“I continue to be, on the one hand, underwhelmed by the infrastructure plan, which has a lot of good words associated with it, but not a lot of coin, specific to Gateway or more broadly,” he said.

There is consensus in Congress that infrastructure investment is necessary, but Democrats say the president’s plan is too little and it’s bordering on too late.