President Donald Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan still has congressional hurdles to clear before it ever becomes law.
But some S.C. officials are praising the proposal and lauding the president for bringing a bipartisan group of state and local officials to the White House Monday to talk about the 55-page plan.
Trump’s proposal – which calls for public-private partnerships – would use $200 billion in federal money to match more than $1 trillion in state and local tax dollars to fix roads, bridges, ports and airports.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin – the only S.C. official at the table Monday – said the roughly two-hour White House meeting was “pretty constructive.”
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“I’m glad the conversation (on infrastructure) has started,” Benjamin said Tuesday.
Benjamin said Monday’s discussion waded through paying for road projects, water and sewer infrastructure; large-scale “dream” projects; and concerns, including Trump’s plan to quicken the environmental permitting process to start road projects.
Another concern is the president wants state and local taxpayers to pay for much of the work, using money many states and cities say they do not have.
“The challenge is that the president does expect that local governments will cover an 80 percent share of the cost (of infrastructure projects),” Benjamin said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how that affects other similarly sized, mid-sized cities.”
Meanwhile, S.C. transportation officials said the state’s new gas tax hike could help pay the Palmetto State’s share of the cost of infrastructure projects if Trump’s plan is adopted.
“We applaud the president and his administration in recognizing the importance of infrastructure investment and rolling out this innovative approach to address critical issues for our state and the nation,” state transportation Secretary Christy Hall said in a statement Monday.
Last year, the General Assembly overrode Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto to raise the state’s 16.75-cent-a-gallon gas tax by two cents a year for six year, a total of 12 cents.
That hike is expected to result in $149 million in new money this year to fix the state’s crumbling roads and bridges, Hall said last week. Once fully phased in, the new law is expected to bring in at least $600 million a year for road and bridge repairs, she said.
Critics worry Trump’s plan could cost motorists, causing some state’s to spend money on toll road installations to cover their share of infrastructure projects. Others worry about a push to raise the federal gas tax by 25 cents a gallon, a proposal pushed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
But Trump’s infrastructure proposal still has to get through the thicket of D.C., Benjamin noted.
“Mayors are eternal optimists,” he said. “We’re a glass half-full kind of people.”
Pardon the construction
As temperatures rise, expect to see more road construction during your drive to work, the S.C. Department of Transportation told lawmakers this month. The agency’s head, Christy Hall, said the state’s higher gas tax, which went into effect July 1, has translated into:
▪ $3 billion of road and bridge work the state agency has underway
▪ $149 million in added money the Transportation Department to come in this year
▪ 25,000 new road and bridge jobs expected within the new few years
▪ 1,300 miles of resurfacing that DOT has awarded contracts for on 1,525 roads in every county in the state
SOURCE: S.C. Department of Transportation