By Eileen Houlihan, senior writer/editor, ARTBA
The leaked outline of a Trump administration infrastructure proposal circulated this week in Congress and the media “will not have Republican or Democratic support,” Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) told about 50 members of MWRTBA during a Jan. 26 breakfast briefing at the Washington Auto Show.
Holmes Norton said that President Donald Trump could be the “Builder-in-Chief of roads,” but not with the plan as it’s known so far. The president is expected to discuss infrastructure in his Jan. 30 State of the Union address. She noted the proposal’s $200 billion in federal funding is a far cry from the president’s frequent mentions of $1 trillion to $1.7 trillion of infrastructure investment and that the proposal calls for most spending to come from the states, localities and private sector.
“The whole notion that the local level would take on such a challenge is shocking,” Holmes Norton said. “It even relies on tax credits and tolls, which states have been barred from using on the Interstates, and we all are dealing with Interstates.” She noted the proposal doesn’t even mention the Highway Trust Fund, much less propose a permanent, sustainable solution to its structural revenue deficit.
“The federal government has to do what it’s done since the republic was created, and especially since the Eisenhower administration, and that is build roads and fund transportation. This package takes funding off the balance sheet and looks for other ways to fund infrastructure,” Holmes Norton said.
She and other Democrats on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee support a 1.5 cent-per-gallon increase of the federal gas tax, then indexed to inflation. Such an increase is modest and would not solve the funding issue, Holmes Norton admitted. But it would help. “We also don’t think there would be a revolution if such a proposal passed,” she added.
Holmes Norton is the ranking member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee.