Trump's Infrastructure Plan 'A Joke,' Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell Says

Feb 12, 2018
Originally published on February 12, 2018 4:42 pm

The Trump administration’s infrastructure plan is finally out.

The headline number is $1.5 trillion, but only $200 billion of that would come from the federal government. Cities, states and private investment would make up the rest.

Ed Rendell (@GovEdRendell), former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, says shifting much of the funding burden onto states will have a negative impact.

“States just are not gonna be able to take advantage of even this limited amount of money,” Rendell, also a co-founder of Building America’s Future, tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson. “It does virtually nothing to help infrastructure development. It’s very disappointing.”

Interview Highlights

On initial reactions to President Trump’s infrastructure plan

“It’s a joke. There is no plan. The American Society of Civil Engineers says to get our infrastructure back to ‘fair’ condition, we have to spend $2 trillion in the next 10 years above what we’ve been spending. The Trump plan only devotes $200 billion, that’s $20 billion a year, to the infrastructure revitalization — that’s 10 percent of what the American Society of Civil Engineers recommends. And they’re not doing it with new revenue, they’re doing it by cutting other parts of the budget. So we’re not even sure that they’ll get to $20 billion a year on a yearly basis. So it’s a joke.

“The president during the campaign said he was gonna spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. He’s not doing that, he’s spending 20 percent of that. The president said he was gonna do big projects. There’s practically no money in there for big projects. It’s a joke. They can spend $341 million giving a tax cut to real estate developers — which they just did — and yet only spend $200 billion on infrastructure that affects every American. It’s a cruel hoax.”

On the administration saying it will be able to leverage private dollars for infrastructure projects

“They may be able to leverage some private dollars, and they did some things, like moving the state ban on tolling, that will help that. But let me give you an example: We have 60,000 structurally deficient bridges in America. I would say about 100 of them generate enough traffic to be tolled. And of course, you have to have a toll or a tax to get private investment, because private investors want a return on their investment. And that makes sense. It’s common sense. So for 100 bridges, you might be able to do it with an infusion of private-sector money. But for 59,900 other bridges, it’s government — and I mean local, state and federal government — that bear that responsibility.”

On the plan calling for $50 billion specifically for rural infrastructure projects, to be given as block grants

“Some places in rural America have a heavy need, like Montana and the Dakotas, because that’s where the natural gas has been discovered, and so there’s a lot of trucking needs. But generally there are not big projects in rural areas. I think that money was thrown in just for political purposes.”

On the administration’s proposal to shorten the permitting process for infrastructure projects

“It’s a good idea, it will be helpful, but it won’t make a difference. Look, you cannot do infrastructure revitalization on the cheap. And remember, these are assets we’re building. For example, the Hoover Dam, a huge infrastructure project that was done by this country in the 1930s. Is the Hoover Dam still working to provide electricity to the area that it’s located in? Yes it is, almost 90 years later. Infrastructure produces assets that have long-term value. We should treat it differently than ordinary spending.”

On what kinds of infrastructure projects are most important right now

“Projects that involve public safety. We’ve got dams that are structurally unsafe. We’ve got bridges that are structurally unsafe. We’ve got pipelines that are structurally unsafe. Those are the things we’ve gotta get to first, then the next thing is things that have economic competitiveness that that can help our economy, that can create jobs. Only about a fourth of our ports on the East Coast are dredged deeply enough to receive the big Panamax liners that are coming through the expanded Panama Canal. So we’re losing a lot of longshoreman jobs and trucker jobs to Canada, where the ports are ready to receive that type of cargo. So public safety first, economic competitiveness second, would be the drivers.”

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