In The News
Trump reportedly creating infrastructure 'task force' to carry out federal spending program
The Washington Post reports that President-elect Donald Trump is preparing to create an infrastructure "task force" that will help carry out a federal spending program he intends to undertake upon taking office, according to several individuals briefed on his plans.
Key members of Trump's team — including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, senior counselor Stephen K. Bannon, senior adviser Stephen Miller and Gary Cohn, whom Trump has tapped to head the National Economic Council — are all involved in the discussions, according to one person familiar with the initiative.
The task force head is "not Cabinet level," a source told the Post, but would play a critical role in coordinating among federal, state and local officials as well as private investors as the new administration prepares to inject hundreds of billions of dollars into projects across the country.
Trump has pledged to mobilize anywhere from half a trillion to a trillion dollars into upgrading the nation's aging and crumbling infrastructure. But that plan might not rely on direct federal spending, according to the Post article.
It stated that venture capitalist Wilbur Ross, Trump's nominee to run the Commerce Department, and University of California at Irvine business professor Peter Navarro have proposed an investment tax credit that they say would cost $137 billion and stimulate about $1 trillion of private investment. Ross and Navarro say the plan would be revenue-neutral — a claim likely to be hotly disputed.
The task force would also have to help identify what qualifies as infrastructure, a word that has been used to describe everything from roads to broadband, from bike trails to electric transmission lines.
It's possible that the task force would take on part of the role traditionally played by the transportation secretary, especially when it comes to roads and bridges. Trump has nominated former labor secretary Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to the Department of Transportation post.
"The Trump folks have reached out on a staff level and discussed this idea," said a person familiar with the talks. "It doesn't seem particularly well formed or specific at this point." The person added that "there's not a concrete thing out there that they are asking for support on at the moment."
Infrastructure spending may be one of the few areas where Trump and Democrats could find common ground, the Post article noted, and his aides are looking for someone who can build bridges with Democrats.
The transition team has spoken with a couple of candidates for the job, according to those who have been briefed, including someone in the New York business world and a local government official.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in a recent newsletter said the idea was announced near the 25th anniversary of another major piece of transportation legislation, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act that President George H.W. Bush signed into law on December 18, 1991. That six-year measure, which Congress passed after states had largely built out the initial map of the Interstate Highway System, authorized funding for highway projects, highway safety and transit programs but also provided a sweeping restructuring of federal surface transportation program.
ISTEA devoted more funding to multimodal projects and gave more authority to states and local planning agencies to spend Highway Trust Fund dollars on what they saw as the best mix of transportation projects regardless of the travel modes involved.
After signing the far-reaching bill into law, Bush met the same day in Dallas with the Policy Committee of AASHTO at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. "This law will make a huge difference for all of us," he told the group. "It will help young fathers rush their wives to a delivery room. It will enable buses to ferry children safely and swiftly to school. It will help just-in-time manufacturers receive the parts they need when they need them. It will keep America where it belongs — in the passing lane."
AASHTO Executive Director Bud Wright said that organization and state department of transportation officials around the country are ready to help the Trump transition team and the reported task force develop its plans, in order to tackle the major investment needs throughout the transportation system.
Wright said that 25 years ago, "Congress and the president through the ISTEA law were able to craft major transportation legislation that still represents a shining example of what Washington can accomplish to build a stronger economy and a more mobile society."
He added: "We look forward to Washington doing so again, to begin truly investing at the levels needed to fix our aging networks and to curb the time-wasting congestion people face each day. And we look forward to seeing President Trump fulfill his jobs-creating infrastructure promise, and sign into law next year a measure that really fixes the Highway Trust Fund, provides sustainable funding across travel modes and meets the transportation needs of America. That would be a historic legacy for any president."
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