In the past decade, the Congress and the White House spent considerable amount of money on transportation. However, in recent campaign elections, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump promised to allocated more budget in reconstructing infrastructure in the whole country.
Clearly, both Clinton and Trump support the idea of repairing the US’s roads, bridges, airports, rail systems, and ports. However, issues arise regarding source of money that will be spent on such repairs, and whether the federal government can handle such expenses.
These issues then should challenge the candidates to ensure fulfilling their promises and presenting concrete plans regarding infrastructure.
Rep. Daniel Webster is a member of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He supports the candidates’ plan for transportation but he doubts whether the attention given to industry will last for long no matter who won the elections.
According to him, when presidents present goals that they want to achieve in their first 100 days in position, only one or two get accomplished, and he does not think that the new president will focus on transportation.
Proposals made by recent US candidates would remind people of Obama’s actions for infrastructure in 2009. As one can remember, the now former president allocated a large portion of his economic stimulus package to transportation.
On the other hand, Clinton’s proposal includes $275 billion for infrastructure. This amount will be spent in a matter of five years, and the money would supposedly come from business tax reforms. A portion of the fund will be allocated to national infrastructure bank, a loan and loan guarantee program for ensuring that private funds will not have a hand in transportation projects all over US.
Meanwhile, Trump plans on spending twice the budget proposed by Clinton.
Based on their proposals, the candidates believe in importance of investing in new and improved roads and bridges. They think that focusing on transportation industry will also create more jobs, which will benefit the economy.
In 2009, Obama succeeded in pushing through Congress his $840 billion stimulus plan. A total of $105 billion of the money ended up in infrastructure. However, the new administration may have a bit of tough time achieving similar goals. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S. C., another member of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is in full support of such programs but he firmly believes that spending such amount of money should be done accordingly. Moreover, as noted by Sanford, it seems that no one is asking how such money will be spent and who will be responsible for taking care of such expenses.
Aside from issues concerning expenditure, demands for major infrastructure may not be a great problem as new administration will be start their duty in improved economic environment along with currently recovering construction industry.
As mentioned by Robert Puentes, presiden and CEO of Eno Center for Transportation, people in Washington agreed in 2009 that work should be provided to people, and investing in transportation is one mean of making such thing possible. However, at present, he claims that the country is under an entirely different economic climate.
Certainly, there will be critics who will not approve right away any plans regarding infrastructure. Even Obama’s infrastructure stimulus plan was not free of criticism. Detractors criticized the plan for centering on projects that should have been implemented right away and gave people jobs but took a while before breaking grounds.
Thus, these so-called shovel ready projects were truthfully well not formulated given the amount of time eaten by planning and review processes. As a result, these projects were considered unsuitable for creating jobs. As Michael Sargent of Heritage Foundation adds, heavy infrastructure and construction would necessitate skilled labor. However, most of unemployed workers lack such skills.
After the stimulus plan, Obama faced difficulty in gaining support from conservatives for his major infrastructure plans. As a matter of fact, lawmakers repeatedly ignored Obama’s “Grow America Act.”
Meanwhile, in the past, Congress paid attention on implementing short-term extensions of Highway Trust Fund. The fund was expected to cover most infrastructure projects but it failed in a number of cases.
Highway Trust Fund is fueled by federal gasoline tax, which remained at 18.4 cents/gallon since 1993. However, the revenue is quite lower at present because a number of Americans now drive less.
In December, the Congress attempted to extend the Highway Trust Fund by passing a five-year $305 billion bill. However, this bill fails to discuss the issues on funding shortfalls and focuses on short-term financing provisions to make for infrastructure spending.
Though Republicans, which hold majority of House of Representatives, are not that interested in infrastructure, presidential candidates already stirred waters, and more eyes are now turning to federal government’s role in transportation spending.
Meanwhile, with absence of federal actions, some states decided to take matter in their own hands and started seeking for means of funding their infrastructure projects.
Some states, including Iowa, Wyoming, Idaho, and Maryland, raised their gasoline taxes. Apparently, states were left with no choice but to look for sources of funds. In relation to this, when people see where funding originates, they become more willing to contribute to paying infrastructure needs.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Lee plans on proposing Transportation Empowerment Act, which will provide states with authority to handle their infrastructure needs. Some conservatives support these types of legislations and even claim that federally-led transportation projects are not generally needed at the moment.
People like Puentes recognize the need for maintaining infrastructure of the country but the they think that federal government need not be constantly involved with it. On the other hand, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania claims that federally funded spending and building processes should be more efficient.