President Trump’s budget has just been revealed, and for the first time, we are seeing the details of his long-awaited Trillion Dollar Infrastructure campaign promise. And while the Democrats in Congress may not completely agree on all the aspects of his proposal, it does mark a rare point of common interest with many lawmakers.
A key point calls for reducing the restrictions on states from tolling existing interstate highways, as the ability to toll can create streams of revenue needed to attract private investment for building or maintaining roads. Trump also supports allowing the private sector to construct, operate, and maintain interstate rest areas, according to the plan. As has been widely reported, the proposal relies on four key approaches: leveraging private sector investment, ensuring federal dollars are targeted toward transformative projects, shifting more services and underused capital assets to the private sector, and giving states and localities more flexibility.
Further, Trump recommends expanding the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or TIFIA, loan program, which helps finance surface transportation projects through direct loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit. One dollar of TIFIA subsidy leverages about $40 in other investment, according to the fact sheet. But just as important is his push to ease the regulatory approval process, as a fact sheet from the White House called the current environmental review and permitting process “fragmented, inefficient, and unpredictable.”
But beyond streets and roads, Trump’s massive rebuilding plan is expected to target a wide range of infrastructure projects. For example, veterans hospitals are one focus; the White House budget summary says “future reforms will encourage public-private partnerships” at the VA, as Trump wants to expand their authority to lease out vacant assets for commercial or mixed-use purposes and speed up its ability to make facility improvements. And our aviation system would see a massive overhaul, as the budget proposes shifting air traffic control operations from the federal government to a nonprofit or nongovernmental entity beginning in 2021. This would save $73 billion in discretionary spending but remove $115.6 billion in aviation excise taxes.
So we are finally seeing the details of Trump’s campaign promise, and it is now up to Congress to pass compromise legislation. Regardless of the final outcome, a big infrastructure bill has a high chance of passing, and that will be a huge shot in the arm for the ready-mixed concrete industry.