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  January 26th, 2017 | Written by

Political Battle Lines Drawn on Infrastructure

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  • Democrats' infrastructure plan includes $200 billion for “all modes of surface transportation.”
  • Democrats' infrastructure plan includes $70 billion to modernize ports, airports, and waterways.
  • Democrats' infrastructure plan includes $100 billion for energy projects.

Congressional Democrats this week introduced a $1 trillion infrastructure plan and invited President Donald Trump to join them in getting it passed.

Trump has also promised a cool trillion for infrastructure, so on the face of it it would appear that the administration and the Democrats are in accord.

The only problem is that the two sides have very different views on how to pay for the buildout. The Democrats want to fund it through federal spending while the administration proposes to finance the projects with equity participation and tax credits for private-sector builders.

But Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democrats’ leader in the upper body, has stated that his side will not consider a tax-credit scheme.

Schumer vowed opposition to any Trump infrastructure plan that would rely on “tax credits for developers” to build US roads, bridges, airports, seaports, and tunnels. Schumer made the comments in a press conference to unveil his $1 trillion infrastructure plan that Democrats say would generate 15 million jobs.

The Schumer program includes $210 billion to repair roads and bridges; $110 billion for water and sewer systems; $180 billion to replace and expand rail and bus systems; $200 billion for “all modes of surface transportation;” $75 billion to rebuild schools; $70 billion to modernize ports, airports and waterways; $100 billion on energy projects; $20 billion to expand broadband internet access; $20 billion for facilities on public and Native American lands; and $10 billion for new Veterans Affairs hospitals and extended care facilities.

Schumer told reporters that Democrats would work to include environmental protections in any infrastructure measure that moves through the Republican-controlled Senate. Trump earlier signed an executive order to expedite environmental approvals for high-priority infrastructure projects.

Democrats’ say to an investment plan that relies on developer tax credits would fail to generate enough construction and would result in the creation of too many toll roads to finance the costs of construction.

Congressional Republicans have criticized the Demecrats’ plan, saying they would oppose any program that would add to federal budget deficits.

Marcia Hale, President of Building America’s Future, a Washington interest group, praised Democrats for putting forward the plan and noted that “infrastructure has always been a bipartisan issue.” But how to pay for infrastructure has no bipartisan consensus and there lies the rub.