The Republican chairmen of key authorizing subcommittees in the House expressed enthusiasm this week for the Trump White House’s long-awaited infrastructure proposal, which most Democrats already have rejected.
“We need to focus on our nation’s infrastructure. The Seventh Street Bridge in Modesto is a prime example of the need to invest in roads and bridges,” said Rep. Jeff Denham of California, chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, emphasizing needs in his district.
Dennham (left) and Graves
“At the top of our list must also be increased water storage for the valley. Water is the lifeblood of the Central Valley, and it’s clear Sacramento refuses to invest in the infrastructure we need,” Denham added.
His colleague, Rep. Sam Graves, chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, focused on the plan’s attention for rural districts.
“Investment in rural infrastructure from roads and bridges to broadband will go a long way in improving commerce and quality of life,” Graves said. “With the White House now focusing on infrastructure, we are presented with a great opportunity to build for the future. Technology is rapidly developing, but our infrastructure is not.”
Democrats, meanwhile, have largely dismissed the proposal’s funding guidance, which would rely significantly on nonfederal partners to achieve $1.5 trillion over 10 years in investments. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the proposal would lead to “ ‘Trump tolls’ all over the country.”
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member, called it “embarrassingly small.”
“This is not a real infrastructure plan. It is simply another scam; an attempt to sell our nation’s infrastructure and create windfall profit for Wall Street while rolling back environmental protections,” DeFazio said.
The proposal calls for giving states flexibility from federal tolling restrictions and to be able to reinvest toll revenues in infrastructure. Overall, $200 billion in federal funds would be used to leverage private investments. Of that, $50 billion would provide governors block grants for rural projects.
The White House is hosting a meeting with Republicans on Feb. 14 to promote the proposal. Next month, committees of jurisdiction will host hearings on infrastructure funding with top administration officials.