WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — President Donald Trump on Monday called his plan to overhaul the country’s infrastructure “the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history.”
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, the plan calls for spreading the cost and having the federal government pay less. But that idea has opponents saying the plan is bad for rebuilding the nation.
“This morning, I submitted legislative principles to Congress that will spur the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history,” Trump said.
The president met behind closed doors with governors, mayors and other lawmakers from around the country to discuss the $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal unveiled Monday, which aims at improving the nation’s roads, rails, airports and more.
“We will build, we will maintain and the vast majority of Americans want to see us take care of the infrastructure,” Trump said. “The roads are in bad shape and we’re going to get the roads in great shape.”
Trump used his own professional background to tout the plan.
“To me, this is a very, very sexy subject,” he said. “I find it sexy because when I was always a builder, I always knew how to build on time on budget, and that’s what we want here.”
The president said the plan includes $50 billion for rural infrastructure.
“The rural folks have been left out,” he said.
Earlier Monday, Trump tweeted “this will be a big week for infrastructure.” He said: “After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!”
As Trump took the wraps off his budget proposal, he told the state and local lawmakers that he’s ready to rebuild.
“Washington will no longer be a roadblock to progress,” Trump said. “Washington will now be your partner. We’ll be your partner.”
Only $200 billion of the $1.5 trillion plan would come from the federal government. The rest would come from state and local spending and private investments.
“Nobody knows better than you people where you want the money invested,” Trump said.
The president also said the key to building is getting rid of red tape. He said he will speed up permit processes from 10 years to two years.
“Because when we give you as governors and mayors and people representing you great states, when we give you money and you can’t get your approvals, I guess we’re going to have to take that money back or you’re not going to build,” Trump said.
The plan also has an objective of improving workforce training.
Democrats blasted the plan. On the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) stood next to a large sign mounted on an easel, reading, “TRUMP TOLLS” in boldface black letters on a white background.
“A word that describes so much of the president’s bill – probably about 80 percent of it – is ‘Trump tolls,’” Schumer said.
Schumer said the infrastructure proposal will simply shift the cost to states that can’t afford it.
“Those entities would either have to charge local taxpayers new tolls, or raise taxes and other fees, to pay for the new infrastructure,” Trump said.
Democrats also said the plan falls way short financially. The ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), said the president needs to spend five times more than he is now to make a dent in infrastructure.
Meanwhile, in the Tri-State area, one of the most urgent infrastructure issues are the Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT rail tracks under the Hudson River that were damaged during Superstorm Sandy.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, some lawmakers say warnings of deteriorating tunnels have fallen on deaf ears. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said both his state and New York state must speak as one to get things done.
“The Gateway Project is a non – it’s not optional,” Murphy said. “This is pass-fail.”
Then-President Barack Obama offered to pay half of the estimated $14 billion for the Gateway Tunnel project, with New York and New Jersey splitting the rest.
But the Trump administration, so far, is rejecting that plan.
“The Gateway Program remains the most urgent infrastructure program in America and a project of national significance for which there is not a minute to lose,” John Porcari, interim executive director of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, said in a statement. “The substantial commitment by the States of New York and New Jersey of more than $5.5 billion for the Hudson Tunnel Project is an important step but does not replace the crucial role of a federal funding partner. We are pleased that the Administration and Congress are engaging in an important national dialogue focused on infrastructure investment. In order for programs across the country like Gateway to be successful, we must substantially increase direct federal investment in infrastructure. We look forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to move Gateway forward.”
There are now two possible ways that the project could get some aid from Washington. States could apply for a share of the $100 billion incentive grants, or the Gateway Project may be eligible for part of the $20 billion pot of money set aside for “transformative programs.”
“I still believe that this is enough of a multistate matter, it’s enough of a national security matter, it’s enough of a bipartisan matter, that at the end of the day, we will get to a good place,” Murphy said.
Projects applying for grants would be scored higher based on how much non-federal money states are able to contribute.
Critics of the president’s plan also say it comes at the expense of other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, which, according to reports, could see cuts of 30 percent.