What’s in Trump’s infrastructure plan?

President Donald Trump has unveiled some specifics about his $1.5 billion-plus infrastructure investment plan after calling for a new commitment to rebuilding America’s infrastructure in his January State of the Union address.

“This morning I submitted legislative principles to Congress that will spur the biggest and boldest infrastructure overhaul in history,” Trump said last Monday at the White House. “[It will] create thousands and thousands of jobs and increase training for our great American workers.”

RELATED: Congress approves budgetary framework including infrastructure spending plans

Last week’s plan released by the White House — a 53-page document outlining the administration’s Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America — lays out six principles for reversing the current course of infrastructure investment. According to the White House, the president is calling on Congress to help him achieve the following.

  1. $200 billion in federal funding to spur at least $1.5 trillion in investments. Federal infrastructure spending will promote state, local and private investments and maximize the value of every taxpayer dollar. Of this $200 billion, $100 billion will create an Incentives Program that will promote accountability by making Federal funding conditional on projects meeting agreed upon milestones.
  2. A $50 billion investment in infrastructure for rural America. The bulk of the dollars in the Rural Infrastructure Program will be allocated to State governors, giving States the flexibility to prioritize their communities’ needs.
  3. Empowerment of state and local authorities. The president’s plan would return decision-making authority to the state and local level, including by expanding processes that allow environmental review and permitting decisions to be delegated to States.
  4. Elimination of barriers that prevent efficient development and management of infrastructure projects. For example, more flexibility will be provided to transportation projects that have minimal federal funding but are currently required to seek federal review and approval.
  5. Streamlined permitting to simplify the approval process. Working with Congress to establish a “one agency, one decision” structure for environmental reviews will shorten approval processes while protecting natural resources.
  6. Investment in America’s most important asset: Its people. The President’s plan would reform Federal education and workforce development programs to better prepare Americans to perform the in-demand jobs of today and the future.

Per No. 5 on the list, Trump has commented on the pace of needed construction projects, calling for reducing the amount of time it takes to secure a permit for federal funding. Trump has previously stated his view that faster permitting can be a relatively low-cost way to advance infrastructure goals. The president also made this point clear in his January State of the Union address while criticizing current permitting practices.

“Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process, getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one,” Trump said. “I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable and modern infrastructure that our economy needs and our people deserve. America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just one year. Isn’t it a disgrace that it can now take 10 years to just to get a minor permit approved for the building of a simple road?”

Water Infrastructure

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) has also announced that it is encouraged the White House recognizes the critical need to invest in the country’s infrastructure, including water systems. According to WEF, closing the investment gap in water infrastructure would generate more than $220 billion in annual economic activity and generate 1.3 million jobs over 10 years.

WEF added that it would also like to see Trump’s infrastructure package:

  • Provide meaningful additional assistance to states and local governments as they work to fund and manage infrastructure projects in their jurisdictions;
  • Build resilient water infrastructure so communities can withstand the impacts of climate change, including severe storms, flooding, drought, and sea level rise;
  • Enable increased innovation in the water sector, such as water reuse, energy generation, and nutrient recovery; and
  • Promote workforce development to deal with labor shortages and pending retirement boom through training, internship, apprenticeship, and career pathway programs.

“We are at a pivotal time, with aging and inadequate water infrastructure in desperate need of repair and expansion to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities for water in the 21st century,” said Eileen O’Neill, executive director of WEF. “We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress on a legislative package that addresses our nation’s pressing and long-term water infrastructure needs.”

RELATED: Trump puts price tag on infrastructure plan, calls for private sector investment

Although water sector organizations have reacted favorably in recent weeks as the Trump administration has ramped up its focus on infrastructure, some have cautioned against the emphasis being solely on roads, bridges and railways while underground infrastructure goes largely ignored. The notion that non-federal revenue will be enough to support needed projects is also point raised by the water sector.

“While we appreciate the Administration’s focus on water, NACWA is concerned that the White House’s proposal may be overly ambitious in terms of how much private investment and other non-federal revenue can be leveraged, particularly for water-specific projects,” said Adam Krantz, CEO of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies. “For decades, communities across the country have struggled to provide necessary funding to support our aging water infrastructure, much of which is over a century old. Municipalities now shoulder 95 percent of the financial burden to build, operate, maintain and repair these vital clean and safe water systems. We need a higher level of direct federal investment than what is contemplated here, to ensure there is a meaningful partnership between the federal and local levels.”

The Trump administration has drawn positive momentum on infrastructure for its position on infusing public projects with greater private sector funding.

“The private water industry has been a vital partner in addressing these challenges, ensuring safe and reliable water for communities nationwide,” said Michael Deane, who recently stepped down from his longtime position as executive director of the National Association of Water Companies, representing private sector water and wastewater service companies. “The six largest private water companies collectively invest nearly $2.7 billion each year in their water systems, which, in 2018, will amount to more than all of the federal clean water and drinking water federal grants combined. We are encouraged that the [Trump] administration is continuing to give private investment a place in the water infrastructure discussion.”

Infrastructure funding will no doubt be a key topic of discussion during Water Week 2018, when water associations gather to communicate the value of water and advance water priorities on a national level during Water Week on April 17-18 in Washington, D.C. Water Week will offer attendees the opportunity to hear from federal officials, members of Congress and Congressional staff, advocacy professionals, utility experts and more. Learn more here.

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