Will President Trump And Democrats Strike A “Badly Needed” Deal On Infrastructure Plan?
Washington D.C. – President Trump said on Saturday he is “looking hard at a bi-partisan plan of 1 to 2 trillion dollars” to help jump-start the rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure.
The President took to Twitter to express his contention that a grand bargain on infrastructure is “badly needed,” but cautioned, “There is nothing easy about a USA Infrastructure Plan.”
There is nothing easy about a USA Infrastructure Plan, especially when our great Country has spent an astounding 7 trillion dollars in the Middle East over the last 19 years, but I am looking hard at a bipartisan plan of 1 to 2 trillion dollars. Badly needed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2019
President Trump’s tweet comes after Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced on Tuesday they had reached an agreement with Mr. Trump on an infrastructure deal with a price tag of $2 trillion.
The new developments are encouraging to those who want to see this issue be addressed, but the challenge remains how to fund such a plan.
“The ball is in the president’s court to come up with pay-fors,” Sen. Schumer said after a meeting with President Trump this week. “We told him unless he is willing to come up with the pay-fors for this large package, it will never get done.”
Democrat leaders said they would like to see a rollback of some of the GOP’s signature tax cut legislation, even though many economists say it has stimulated the U.S. economy and helped to spur job growth.
The U.S. Labor Department announced on Friday that the national economy added a robust 263,000 new hires in April, while the unemployment rate fell to 3.6%, which is the lowest since December 1969.
Such a precondition in negotiations on an infrastructure deal is likely a non-starter with President Trump and GOP leaders.
Republicans were also quick to weigh in on what it is going to take to proffer an agreeable solution.
Mark Meadows, leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, told The Hill there is simply no appetite among Republicans to raise taxes, especially to the degree Democrats would like to see.
“I mean, $1 trillion you could maybe do; $2 trillion, there is no way to get the money other than raising taxes and there is not an appetite for an increase in taxes by Republicans in the House or the Senate,” Meadows said.
The American Trucking Association is lobbying President Trump and Congress to take action on this issue by increasing the federal fuel tax.
Federal fuel taxes were last hiked in 1993. The current federal gasoline tax sits at 18.4 cents per gallon and the diesel tax remains at 24.4 cents per gallon.
Some political observers believe 2019 may be the best chance supporters of raising federal fuel taxes have had in more than a decade to actually accomplish their goal.
Rep. Meadows acknowledged that in order to get to $2 trillion in new funding, raising taxes would be necessary. “You would have to have a gas tax to do it, and we’re not for a gas tax,” he told The Hill.
ATA President and CEO Chris Spear expressed optimism this week after President Trump and Democrat leaders met and announced an agreement to work on a $2 trillion plan.
“The trucking industry is intimately familiar with the issues our nation faces due to deteriorating roads and bridges,” Spear said. “We have a tool that can generate $340 billion over the next 10 years to fix our bridges and fill potholes across the country.”
ATA has proposed a five-cent increase in the fuel user fee over four years as part of the Build America Fund, a total twenty-cent increase that the association claims would generate $340 billion in funds for immediate investment in the nation’s roads and bridges.
“The fuel tax is the one funding tool in the toolbox that pays for itself by users,” Spear contended this week. “It is the most effective, efficient and yes, conservative, way of generating the amount of money we need to do the job.”
However, many conservatives would disagree with Spear’s assertion.
Grover Norquist is the president of the conservative group, Americans for Tax Reform, and is an outspoken critic of increasing federal fuel taxes.
On a recent edition of Fox Business Network’s “Bulls & Bears,” Norquist warned GOP leaders, “It is political stupidity at the highest and most suicidal level.”
Americans for Tax Reform estimates that for every 1% gas prices increase, $1 billion is taken out of consumers’ pockets.
Echoing that opinion is Fox News host Tucker Carlson. On a recent edition of his show “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” he said if President Trump wanted to ensure his defeat in the 2020 presidential election then he should “go with the gas tax.”
Calling such a policy “disastrous” and “nuts,” Carlson said increasing federal fuel taxes is “so mindless and counterproductive there’s literally no way you could get re-elected after doing it.”
It’s this kind of rancor from both sides of the political aisle which gives credence to President Trump’s assertion that “there is nothing easy about a USA Infrastructure Plan.”
The talks are set to continue in a few weeks when President Trump will meet once again with Democratic leaders to try to blaze a path forward.
Read more of Transportation Nation Network’s extensive reporting on infrastructure HERE.