Senate Democrats released an analysis showing that the Trump budget actually contained a net cut to infrastructure programs, reducing federal outlays by $145 billion over 10 years. Those include cuts to Amtrak, the Highway Trust Fund, eliminating TIGER grants, and a number of other reductions.
Democrats have slammed Trump’s entire budget proposal, and many of its proposed cuts are unlikely to win support even in the Republican-controlled Congress. But the furious criticism of his infrastructure outline dampens hopes for action on one of the few areas where Trump’s campaign promises aligned with Democratic priorities.
“President Trump’s campaign promises on infrastructure are crumbling faster than our roads and bridges,” Senate Minority Charles Schumer said in a statement, noting that the White House had ignored a $1 trillion proposal Democrats had sent earlier this year. “Democrats stand ready to work with President Trump to create jobs,” Schumer said, “but will stand united in opposition to the types of dangerous cuts we see today.”
The builder-turned-politician has been beating the drum on infrastructure since his debut on the campaign trail, when he vowed to rebuild “our roads, our bridges, our airports.” When Hillary Clinton offered up a program that would have topped out at $500 billion, Trump said he would more than double it. But Trump’s enthusiasm for the issue has never been matched by Republicans in Congress, who only begrudgingly added infrastructure to their list of priorities at the beginning of the year.
Led by budget director Mick Mulvaney, the conservative spending hawks who drafted Trump’s blueprint appear to have further curtailed his ambitions. “Simply providing more federal funding for infrastructure is not the solution,” the budget proposal reads.
Advocates outside Congress received the president’s outline with a bit more diplomacy, holding out hope that a more detailed proposal from the White House expected later in the year would jumpstart bipartisan talks. But they, too, were underwhelmed.
“We would like much more,” said Marcia Hale, president of the advocacy group Building America’s Future. She said there was widespread support for using tax incentives to spur private development, but not as a substitute for federal spending on projects that could not get funding anywhere else. “We are also for using the private sector to leverage money, but the need in the country is so great that the $200 billion number is not going to do it.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers, an industry group angling for more infrastructure spending, has given the U.S. a D+ in its annual report card and says that together, federal, state, and local governments need to spend many times more than what Trump is proposing to meet the nation’s economic needs.
“It's actually $200 billion a year,” said Brian Pallasch, the group’s top lobbyist. “We're trying to figure out how that $200 billion is going to become $1 trillion,” he said. “We’re trying to better understand how that money can be leveraged. I’m not sure I quite understand it yet.”