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State and Local Governments Welcome Trump Infrastructure Plan, but Worry About Ability to Meet Funding Demands

The White House infrastructure plan would require significant local funding matches.

City and state officials welcomed the announcement by the White House to direct billions of federal dollars toward infrastructure projects around the country.

President Donald Trump unveiled a 53-page proposal Monday that would use $200 billion as an incentive to jumpstart road, bridge, transit and other needed infrastructure projects. The proposal is built on the assumption that that money would lead to $1.3 trillion in investment from sub-federal governments and private partners over the next 10 years.

“With the release of this plan, the White House will hopefully start a domino effect in Washington for Congress to pull together a bipartisan bill that works with cities to rebuild America’s infrastructure,” said National League of Cities Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Clarence Anthony in a statement.

In order to participate in the president’s infrastructure program, states or local governments would need to come up with a match — roughly $6.50 for every $1 of federal funding, according to a report from the New York Times.

That match could be a high bar for some states to reach.

Eric Anderson, transportation director at the Maricopa Association of Governments in Arizona, said the new White House initiative could be a source of funding the region might tap into.

“We hope so,” Anderson said on Monday. “It looks like it’s going to require a pretty significant match.”

Maricopa County, the largest county in the state, has a half-cent sales tax dedicated to highway funding. It’s enough to provide the needed money to allow the region take on highway projects and match other funding sources.

“Maricopa County, because we have this separate funding source … we actually have money we could match,” said Anderson. “And that’s kind of the new angle on this, from a statewide perspective, we’re telling state legislators, ‘You need to increase state funding so that the state has the ability to take advantage of some of these emerging federal programs.’”

The White House proposal, officially called the Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America, advocates for the easing of a range of regulatory hurdles in an effort to fast-track infrastructure projects. The plan is also one of Trump’s key campaign platforms, as he pledged to rebuild or upgrade roads, bridges, rail lines, airports and other infrastructure.    

What’s left unknown is how enthusiastically Congress will rally around a plan that could add billions in federal spending.

It’s also unclear if technology projects like electric vehicle charging infrastructure might qualify for the funding. The plan calls for the creation of a “Transformative Projects Program” that would put money and assistance toward “bold, innovative, and transformative,” but the language doesn’t get much more specific than that.

That said, state and local governments, along with many related associations, rallied around a proposal to improve the country’s aging and often poorly maintained infrastructure.

“We stand ready to work with our federal partners to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure to meet the diverse, complex needs of our residents and ensure American competitiveness,” reads a statement from the National Governors Association.

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.
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