Transportation has been vastly underfunded in the past two decades, according to most Democrats in the House and Senate. President Obama tried to raise taxes on oil imports and gas usage to fund transportation projects, but Congress has been a stone wall, refusing to raise taxes or spend more on infrastructure.
You would think under Republican President-elect Donald Trump, things are about to get worse, but the billionaire businessman has advocated for more infrastructure spending throughout his campaign.
In his announcement speech, Trump spoke about the need to spend more on our infrastructure: “We have to rebuild our infrastructure. Our bridges, our roadways, our airports.” Trump also lambasted Hillary Clinton’s infrastructure plans, which included $500 billion in spending and loans, saying more is needed.
It sounds like Trump is willing to spend hundreds of billions, if not trillions, fixing and upgrading America’s infrastructure, but details of his plan are sketchy. He hasn’t provided an actual spending figure, and apart from the wall, there aren’t that many signature projects that have Trump’s approval.
Going around Washington
Cities and states have started to bypass Congress entirely when it comes to transportation projects, usually pushing the project to a vote. That has resulted in major projects being approved, like the ½ percent rise in sales tax in Los Angeles, which will provide $120 billion to future transportation and construction projects.
This works for some programs, although states can only go so far when it comes to changing the tax laws and increasing import charges. For massive programs to be approved, Congress would need to change its tune.
Even if Trump were to announce major infrastructure programs, it would be hard to push them through a Republican House and Senate. Republicans have blockaded almost all of Obama’s plans, convinced that infrastructure doesn’t need massive spending increases, and if they do the states can decide.