- Lynn Hulsey Staff Writer
President Donald Trump on Tuesday outlined a plan to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridge, railways, dams and other infrastructure that would shift the largest portion of the cost to states, local governments and the private sector.
“At least $200 billion of the $1 trillion plan will come from direct federal investment,” Trump said in front of about 500 people at Rivertowne Marina along the Ohio River in Cincinnati. “Working with states, local government and private industry we will insure that these new federal funds are matched by significant additional dollars for maximum efficient and accountability.”
It is not clear where states like Ohio and many local governments would get the money to pay larger portions of the cost for infrastructure repair and construction. Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor was in the audience and said Canada has had success with public-private partnerships. Even so, she said she would need to see more details of Trump’s plan.
“We do have to look at ways to fund it. The gasoline tax is not keeping up,” said Taylor, a Republican running for governor in 2018.
Kevin W. Burch, president of Jet Express Inc. and chairman of the American Trucking Association, said the nation’s highways must be improved for the sake of commerce. He said $200 billion in federal funding is a starting point, but not enough. He advocates increasing the federal gasoline tax for the first time since 1993.
“The problem that we have is our government officials do not want any increase in taxes,” Burch said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a statement after the speech applauding Trump for focusing on rebuilding infrastructure.
“The Chamber and the business community look forward to engaging with the White House and with Congress to develop and implement a long-term plan that will bring our nation’s infrastructure up to speed and spur economic growth. Now is the time to take action and to get the job done,” said Executive Director for Transportation Infrastructure Ed Mortimer.
Trump’s speech came after he landed at Cincinnati Lunken Airport and spoke to two families there about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which he opposes and wants to repeal and replace.
Raya Mafazy Whalen, who with her husband Michael own Troy-based playground equipment company, PlayCare, said she told Trump about how she had to change doctors when she was pregnant because the OB-GYN she wanted to go to wasn’t covered under the insurance she had through the ACA. She said her husband had offered an insurance plan to employees but canceled it because it didn’t offer required coverage. As a result some employees left, she said.
“(Trump) was incredibly kind and warm,” said Whalen, who headed Women for Trump Montgomery County and founded Young Republican Women of Dayton.
At the marina, Trump noted that Anthem had on Monday announced it was pulling out of the ACA marketplace in Ohio. The company said it was because of the uncertainty about what the federal government was doing with health insurance and a decline in the individual market.
“Bye bye,” said Trump. “What a mess.”
Trump called Democrats “obstructionists” who won’t help with the repeal and replacement of the ACA.
“That’s why they lost the House, they lost the Senate, the White House,” Trump said.
The Democratic National Committee responded by saying Republicans had sabotaged the ACA and were to blame for 70,000 Ohioans losing insurance through Anthem.
“Republicans should abandon their spiteful, one-party health care repeal crusade and instead work with Democrats to make Obamacare work better,” said Erick Walker, DNC spokesman.
Terrence Clark, spokesman for the progressive Center for American Progress Action Fund, said states are already facing big increased costs if Trump’s proposed budget is approved.
“While Trump is coming in to sell Ohioans and all Americans a bill of goods with his trillion-dollar infrastructure package, he’s skirting the fact that his budget directly undercuts millions of Americans – especially those in more rural areas - relying on other programs that will be cut, such as Medicaid and Social Security benefits,” Clark said.
Much of Trump’s speech was spent talking about what he said was the terrible state of American roads and bridges and touting progress he said he’s made cutting regulations.
“People are so impressed we have cut so many regulations,” Trump said, adding that his plan for infrastructure includes more cuts in regulations and speeding up the time it takes to get construction projects done.
He said the U.S. spends trillions of dollars overseas, including helping fight wars in the Middle East, but “we don’t ever seem to have the money ” to fix roads and bridges.
“It’s time finally to put America first and that’s what I’ve been doing if you hadn’t noticed,” Trump said.
He compared the initiative Americans showed by building the Panama Canal, the interstate highway system and the Golden Gate Bridge with what he said was a lack of will today.
“We don’t do that anymore. We don’t even fix the old highways anymore,” Trump said.
Trump also talked about problems with the nation’s 12,000-mile inland waterway system.
“These critical corridors depend on a dilapidated system of locks and dams that is more than half-a-century old, and their condition continues to decay,” he said. “Capital improvements of this system have been massively underfunded - and there is an $8.7 billion maintenance backlog that is only getting worse.”
The waterways are important to transportation and have “relied primarily on federal funding,” according to an infrastructure information sheet released by the White House. The document blames deferred maintenance and insufficient revenue to operate the current system and the 24 projects costing $7 billion that are authorized but not yet paid for.
It says the $8.7 billion cost of improving the inland waterways “could be financed through a modest fee on the beneficiaries of the system.”
Trump spoke with the Ohio River as his backdrop and with barges of what he said was West Virginia coal docked on the Kentucky shoreline. A large American flag was draped over the barge tugboat before he spoke. Trump said a new coal mine is opening next week and he also has a plan to stop the dumping of cheap foreign steel in the U.S.
“The steel folks are going to be very happy,” said Trump.
Trump said his plans will bring prosperity
“We too will see jobs and wealth flood into the heartland and see new products and new produce made and grown right here in the U.S.A. And you don’t hear that much anymore,” said Trump. “We will buy American and we will hire American.”
He said he is not content to let the country “become a museum of former glories.”
“We will construct incredible new monuments to American grit that inspire wonder for generations and generations to come,” Trump said. “We will build because that is how we make America great again.”