Expectations are building that President Trump will unveil his long-promised infrastructure package during his State of the Union Address January 30.
There will be four pots of money. The largest, totaling $100 billion, is intended to provide a federal incentive for transportation, water, hydroelectricity and brownfield reclamation projects. Money from this pot would cover 20 percent of project costs and non-federal funding would make up the rest.
A second pot sets aside $50 billion for rural projects, which also can include broadband investments. The last leak indicates $40 billion from this pot would be allocated to states after they produce a comprehensive rural investment plan.
A third pot would give the Department of Commerce the discretion to spend $20 billion on what are called transformative projects, including higher-risk and higher-reward projects.
Around $30 billion would be dedicated to federal capital financing and credit programs including TIFIA and WIFIA that are intended to spur public-private partnerships such as toll roads.
There are congressional proposals on infrastructure, so the final shape of a package that can pass remains to be seen. But it is encouraging to see the debate over an actual package may begin soon in Congress.
Congressional attention has been focused – and will continue to focus – on reaching an agreement on spending. The nation is operating under its fourth continuing resolution, with a February 8 deadline to negotiate a longer-term agreement under the shadow of other issues that range from increased military spending and immigration.
The three-day partial federal government shutdown that ended Monday may be a precursor of what’s to come. Senate Democrats want to use their limited leverage to filibuster to secure the future of 800,000 “Dreamers.” Trump and conservative Republicans in the House want to use the Dreamers as a bargaining chip to get up to $18 billion for a border wall and other changes in immigration policy.
The consensus view of political observers is that Senate Democrats folded fairly quickly because they weren’t geared up for a war of words in print and on social media. Republicans pounded them, saying they shut down the government to protect illegal immigrants.
Government shutdowns probably don’t shower any political party with praise, but Democrats may be better armed to defend their position if February 8 rolls around and there is no deal on immigration, border security or military spending.