President Trump has pledged as much as $1 trillion in infrastructure spending
The White House's proposed budget calls for cuts to many infrastructure programs
Budget director promises more infrastructure spending to come
President Donald Trump is proposing to cut or eliminate several key federal infrastructure programs despite repeated vows to increase spending on roads, utilities and other vital facilities.
Trump’s budget director said the White House will uphold Trump’s pledge for $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending through an unspecified “infrastructure package” to be released later.
But the cuts described in a budget outline Thursday drew rebukes from some lawmakers and infrastructure advocates, who accused Trump of hypocrisy.
“For someone who says he wants to invest in infrastructure, I don’t see any evidence of it in this budget,” said Beth Osborne, a senior policy adviser at Transportation for America, a nonpartisan group that urges investment in transportation.
Budget director Mick Mulvaney acknowledged that the preliminary budget might appear to contradict Trump’s statements as a candidate and as president vowing more infrastructure spending. “That was done intentionally,” Mulvaney told reporters Wednesday.
Mulvaney said the White House is targeting “inefficient programs” and will shift funds into “more efficient infrastructure programs later on.”
The White House provided no details on its infrastructure package. Trump has touted building infrastructure with government and private-sector money to minimize public costs.
But a group representing water utilities in rural areas said Thursday that public-private partnerships won’t work, and it assailed Trump’s proposal to eliminate a $500-million-a-year program that helps rural communities build and improve water, sewer, trash and street-drainage systems.
“This demonstrates how blind the Administration is to its rural constituency and the lack of knowledge of what is most effective in funding the majority of the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure,” the National Rural Water Association said in a statement.
The association and other groups say the current federal programs are effective if underfunded.
“Government programs that have proven successful should continue to be funded … to ensure consistent funding from year to year,” said Norma Jean Mattei, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a leading advocate for infrastructure spending. The society recently estimated the nation’s infrastructure needs $4.6 trillion over the next 10 years for repairs and expansion. It rated the overall quality of infrastructure as poor.
Trump’s proposed cuts would jeopardize 56 public-transit projects in early development stages, said Richard White, president of the American Public Transportation Association, which represents transit systems.
“It’s been a long time since we started a budget process where there was a major scale back or retreat from a federal role” in supporting transit infrastructure, White said.
Trump said in late February that he would propose a measure to trigger $1 trillion in infrastructure spending by the public and private sectors, though some lawmakers doubted that investors would finance infrastructure projects that would generate little revenue.
“There is no transit system in the world that makes money,” said Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the House transportation committee.
“They have no plan,” DeFazio said of the administration. “They are ideologically divided between those who would like to invest in infrastructure and those who would pretend to invest in infrastructure.”
Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, issued a statement Thursday that does not address Trump’s infrastructure plan but praises his proposal to privatize the nation’s air-traffic control system, which the Federal Aviation Administration now operates.
Even groups that aren’t facing cuts in infrastructure grants and loans said Trump fell far short of campaign promises, such as his vow to pour billions more into the main federal program that helps localities repair and upgrade water- and sewage-treatment plants.
“It’s essentially level funding, which is surprising given his campaign said he wanted to triple the funding,” said G. Tracy Mehan, head of government affairs for the American Water Works Association.
Trump’s budget outline hits hardest at surface transportation by eliminating a $500-million-a-year program that was created in the federal stimulus package of 2009 to finance a wide range of projects, from replacing bridges to building street car lines. The budget also would cut funding for new rail or bus lines.
Trump’s proposal does not touch the main federal source of transportation money, Highway Trust Fund, which allocates roughly $50 billion a year to state and local highway and transit systems. The trust fund gets its money almost entirely from federal fuel taxes and is separate from the federal budget.
Other proposed cuts include:
- Eliminating the decades-old $3-billion-a-year Community Development Block Grant program, which has allocated roughly $280 million a year to local infrastructure improvements in low-income neighborhoods.
- Eliminating a $221-million-a-year Commerce Department grant program that pays for a range of projects, including infrastructure, that support manufacturing.