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story.lead_photo.caption President Donald Trump speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, during a meeting with state and local officials about infrastructure. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump sent Congress a sweeping plan Monday to rebuild the nation's depleted roads and bridges -- then immediately raised doubts about how committed he was to delivering on that campaign promise.

"If you want it badly, you're going to get it," Trump told state and local officials during a meeting at the White House. "And if you don't want it, that's OK with me, too."

Trump suggested that his proposal -- aimed at spurring $1.5 trillion in spending over a decade -- was not as important to him as other recent administration efforts to cut taxes and boost military spending.

"If for any reason, they don't want to support to it, hey, that's going to be up to them," Trump said of the Republican-controlled Congress. "What was very important to me was the military, what was very important to me was the tax cuts, and what was very important to me was regulation."

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Speaking of infrastructure, Trump added: "This is of great importance, but it's not nearly in that category. Because the states will have to do it themselves if we don't do it. But I would like to help the states out."

The administration's plan is centered on using $200 billion in federal money to leverage more than $1 trillion in local and state tax dollars to fix America's infrastructure, such as roads, highways, ports and airports. The administration released a 55-page "legislative outline" for lawmakers who will write the legislation.

With the plan heavily dependent on state and local dollars, Democrats warned that it would raise tolls on commuters, sell off government-owned infrastructure to Wall Street and eliminate critical environmental protections.

The proposal lists Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport as examples of assets that could be sold. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., warned that the proposal included studying whether the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest public utility, should sell its transmission assets. He called it "a loony idea" with "zero chance of becoming law."

"After a full year of empty boasts, the president has finally unveiled a puny infrastructure scam that fully fails to meet the need in America's communities," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Convening a roomful of state and local leaders, Trump listened as governors and mayors pitched individual projects in their states and described the challenges involved with gaining federal permits.

"It seems to me that the pyramids in Egypt were built faster than some of the projects that we're contemplating," said Esteban Bovo, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission in Florida.

Trump vowed repeatedly that the federal permitting process would be streamlined but said it would be up to state and local leaders to ensure that local permits don't hold up worthy projects.

"Washington will no longer be a roadblock to progress. Washington will now be your partner," Trump said.

When an official from Pennsylvania noted plans to add connections for an interstate highway -- estimated to cost more than $500 million -- Trump was blunt. "Get the price down a little bit," he said to laughter.

"To me this is a very, very sexy subject," Trump said. "The media doesn't find it sexy. I find it sexy because I was always a builder, I always knew how to build on time, on budget."

The proposal features two key components: an injection of funding for new investments and to speed up repairs of crumbling roads and airports, as well as a streamlined permitting process that would reduce the wait time to get projects underway. Officials said the $200 billion in federal support would come from cuts to existing programs.

Besides unveiling his infrastructure plan, Trump also released his 2019 budget blueprint Monday. Combing through it, the office of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., identified more than $240 billion in proposed cuts over the coming decade to an array of existing infrastructure programs -- a higher number than what Trump is proposing in new spending.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The cuts identified by Schumer's office include a $122 billion reduction in outlays over the coming decade to the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for road projects and mass transit. Other proposed reductions would target an array of programs that fund rail, aviation, wastewater and subsidized housing.

Of the $200 billion in new federal spending that Trump is proposing over the coming decade, half would be used to create an incentives program to reward states and localities that invest more in infrastructure projects. The money would be doled out on a competitive basis for transportation, water, flood control, cleanup at some of the country's most polluted sites and other projects, with awards that amount to up to 20 percent of a project's cost.

Transit agencies generally count on the federal government for half the cost of major construction projects, and federal dollars can make up as much as 80 percent of some highway projects.

About $50 billion would go to rural projects -- transportation, broadband, water, waste, power, flood management and ports -- distributed to governors through block grants. That is intended to address criticism from some Republican senators that the administration's initial emphasis on public-private partnerships would do little to help rural, GOP-leaning states.

The remaining federal dollars include: $20 billion for expanded loan programs and private bonds, $20 billion for "transformative projects" such as tunnel and high-speed trains, and $10 billion for a capital financing fund and office-building by the federal government.

"This plan recognizes what everyone in America knows firsthand: America's infrastructure is in disrepair, and it's long past time we start building again," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Information for this article was contributed by Ken Thomas, Kevin Freking and Jonathan Mattise of The Associated Press; and by John Wagner of The Washington Post.

A Section on 02/13/2018

Print Headline: Trump unveils his infrastructure plan

Comments

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  • RBear
    February 13, 2018 at 6:11 a.m.

    This "plan" pushes funding to the states and cities with very little help from the federal government. The ratio requires the local level to come up with 80% of the funding while the federal government pays only 20% while the money exists. At a time when our nation's infrastructure needs to be upgraded, Trump only pays lip service to it. Of course, he'll be at every ribbon cutting bragging about how he rebuilt the nation's infrastructure, ignoring those who came up with the lion's share of funding.
    ...
    There is a reason our nation's infrastructure is crumbling because states, counties, and cities don't have the funds to repair them. So if that's the case, how can we expect them to come up with funds to rebuild them?

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