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Explainer: What you should know about Trump’s infrastructure plan

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Earlier today, President Trump released his new $200 billion infrastructure plan. Here is what should know about the 53-page legislative outline:

What is infrastructure?

The Federal government has defined infrastructure as the framework of interdependent networks and systems comprising identifiable industries, institutions (including people and procedures), and distribution capabilities that provide a reliable flow of products and services essential to the defense and economic security of the United States, the smooth functioning of governments at all levels, and society as a whole.

While infrastructure plans traditionally address transportation assets such as roads, bridges, and airports, the Trump administration plan includes “other needs like drinking and wastewater systems, waterways, water resources, energy, rural infrastructure, public lands, veterans’ hospitals, and Brownfield and Superfund sites.”

What new programs are created by the plan?

The president’s plan includes three new programs for funding and financing infrastructure improvements: an infrastructure incentives program, a rural infrastructure program, and the “Transformative Projects Program.”

Infrastructure incentives program

Program: An “infrastructure incentives program” which would “provide for targeted Federal investments, encourage innovation, streamline project delivery, and help transform the way infrastructure is designed, built, and maintained.”

Program’s function: “Under this program, States and localities would receive incentives in the form of grants. Project sponsors selected for award would execute an agreement with express progress milestones. Federal incentive funds would be conditioned upon achieving the milestones within identified time frames.”

Program’s purpose: This program would provide funding for surface transportation and airports, passenger rail, ports and waterways, flood control, water supply, hydropower, water resources, drinking water facilities, wastewater facilities, stormwater facilities, and Brownfield and Superfund sites.

Program’s funding: $100 billion


Rural infrastructure program

Program: A “rural infrastructure program” which would “provide for significant

investment in rural infrastructure to address long-unmet needs.”

Program’s function: “Under this program, States would be incentivized to partner with local and private investments for completion and operation of rural infrastructure projects.”

Program’s purpose: This program would provide funding for roads, bridges, public transit, rail, airports, and maritime and inland waterway ports; broadband and other high-speed data and communication conduits); drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, land revitalization and Brownfields; governmental generation, transmission and distribution facilities; flood risk management, water supply, and waterways.

Program’s funding: $50 billion


Transformative Projects Program

Program: The Transformative Projects Program would “provide Federal funding and technical assistance for bold, innovative, and transformative infrastructure projects that could dramatically improve infrastructure.”

Program’s function: “The Transformative Projects Program would support projects that, with Federal support, are capable of generating revenue, would provide net public benefits, and would have a significant positive impact on the Nation, a region, State, or metropolitan area.”

Program’s purpose: The purposes of the Transformative Projects Program would include: significantly improving performance, from the perspective of availability, safety, reliability, frequency, and service speed; substantially reducing user costs for services; introducing new types of services; and improving services based on other related metrics.

Program’s funding: $20 billion

The proposal also establishes a new infrastructure fund in the U.S. Treasury entitled the Interior Maintenance Fund (Fund) comprised of additional revenues from the amounts due and payable to the United States from mineral and energy development on Federal lands and waters.

What new provisions does the plan propose?

The president’s plan proposes several new provisions in a variety of areas related to infrastructure.

Changes to financing programs

  • Expand Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Funding and Broaden Program Eligibility
    • Support airport and non-Federal waterways and ports financing options.
  • Expand Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) and Broaden Program Eligibility
    • Subsidize RRIF for short-line freight and passenger rail.
  • Expand Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Funding and Broaden Program Eligibility
    • Expand EPA’s WIFIA authorization to include non-Federal flood mitigation, navigation and water supply.
  • Eliminate requirement under WIFIA for borrowers to be community water systems.
    • Authorize Brownfield rehabilitation and cleanup of Superfund sites
    • Reduces rating agency opinions from two to one for all borrowers.
    • Provides EPA authority to waive the springing lien in certain lending situations.
    • Increases the base level of administrative funding authorized to ensure EPA has sufficient funding to operate the WIFIA program.
    • Removes the restriction on the ability to reimburse costs incurred prior to loan closing under WIFIA.
    • Expands the WIFIA program to authorize eligibility for credit assistance for water system acquisitions and restructurings.
    • Expands WIFIA authorization to include Federal deauthorized water resource projects
  • Expands Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Lending Programs Funding
  • Creates Flexibility and Broaden Eligibility to Facilitate use of Private Activity Bonds (PABs)
  • Requires public attributes for public infrastructure projects
  • Broadens eligibility of PABs
  • Eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax preference on PABs
  • Removes State volume caps and transportation volume caps on PABs for public purpose infrastructure projects and expand eligibility to ports and airports
  • Provides change-of-use provisions to preserve the tax-exempt status of governmental bonds
  • Provide change-of-use cures for private leasing of projects to ensure preservation of tax exemption for infrastructure projects.

Disposal of Federal assets

• Changes the provisions to “allow for the disposal of Federal assets to improve the allocation of economic resources in infrastructure investment.”

Transportation

• Provides States flexibility to create tolls on Interstates and reinvest toll revenues in infrastructure.

• Extends streamlined passenger facility charge process from non-hub airports to small hub airports

• Provides states flexibility to commercialize Interstate rest areas

• Provides new flexibility for transportation projects with de minimis federal share

• Expands qualified credit assistance and other capabilities for state infrastructure banks

• Authorizes federal land management agencies to use contracting methods available to states

• Raises the cost threshold for major project requirements to $1 billion

• Authorizes utility relocation to take place prior to NEPA completion

• Authorizes repayment of federal investment to eliminate perpetual application of federal requirements

• Provides small highway projects with relief for the same federal requirements as major projects

• Require value capture financing as condition of receipt of transit funds for capital investment grants

• Eliminates constraints on use of public-private and public-public partnerships in transit

• Codifies expedited project delivery for capital investment grants pilot program

• Applies FAST act streamlining provisions to rail projects and shorten the statute of limitations

• Creates more efficient federal aviation administration oversight of non-aviation development activities at airports

• Reduce barriers to alternative project delivery for airports

• Clarifies authority for incentive payments under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP)

• Moves oversight of AIP funds to post-expenditure audits

Water infrastructure

• Authorizes clean water revolving fund for privately owned public-purpose treatment works

• Provides new flexibility for water projects with de minimis federal share

• Provides ERA infrastructure programs with “SEP-15” authorizing language

• Applies identical regulatory requirements to privately owned public-purpose treatment works and publicly owned treatment works

• Expands authority related to non-federal construction and operation of inland waterways projects

• Authorizes user fee collection and retention under the WRRDA Section 5014 pilot program and recreation user fees for operation and maintenance of public facilities

• Expands U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ authority to engage in long-term contracts

• Authorizes commercial operation and maintenance activities at hydropower facilities

• Deauthorizes certain federal civil works projects

• Expands authority for acceptance of contributed and advanced funds

• Amends water resources development act to allow for waiver of cost limits

Veterans Affairs

• Authorizes VA to retain proceeds from sales of properties and exchange existing facilities for construction of new facilities

• Authorizes pilot program for VA to exchange land or facilities for lease of space in multi-tenant facilities

• Increases the threshold above which VA is require to obtain congressional authorization for leases

Brownfield/Superfund reform

• Creates a superfund revolving loan fund and grant program and authorize national priorities list sites to be eligible for brownfield grants

• Provides liability relief for states and municipalities acquiring contaminated property through actions as sovereign governments

• Provides EPA express settlement authority to enter into administrative agreements

• Integrates cleanup, infrastructure and long-term stewardship needs by creating flexibility in funding and execution requirements

Infrastructure permitting improvement

• Creates a new, expedited structure for environmental reviews; increases delegation of more decision-making to States and enhancing coordination between State and Federal reviews; and authorizes pilot programs through which agencies may experiment with innovative approaches to environmental reviews while enhancing environmental protections.

Delegation to states

• Expands department of transportation NEPA assignment program to other agencies

• Allows states to assume FHWA responsibilities for approval of right-of-way acquisitions

• Broadens NEPA assignment program to include other determinations

Pilot programs and judicial reform

• Creates pilot programs to “experiment with new ways to address environmental impacts while delivering projects in a more timely and predictable way,” and includes proposals to reform judicial review standards for environmental reviews to

avoid protracted litigation and to make court decisions more consistent.

Workforce development

• Expands Pell Grant eligibility to high-quality, short-term programs

• Enacts reforms of the Federal Work Study program (FWS) and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) program

• Reforms licensing requirements to allow out-of-state individuals to work on infrastructure projects

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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