Trump Transportation Infrastructure Plan Is Sound, Business-like Approach

Mar 3, 2017
Opinion Editorial
Highway Builder Magazine
By Rep. Lou Barletta
One of the great advantages the United States has held over our economic competitors in the industrialized world is our multi-modal transportation infrastructure network.  It has allowed us to ship goods tremendous distances, both within this country and around the world, more cheaply and efficiently than other nations.  Over time, our infrastructure has fallen into an alarming state of disrepair, putting at risk our competitive advantage and threatening our ability to reaffirm our status as an economic leader in the world.  As a former mayor who has dealt with transportation needs at the ground level, as someone with a background in the road construction business, and as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I support President Donald J. Trump’s business-like approach to addressing these pressing needs.
As a former mayor of my hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, I have first-hand knowledge of transportation issues, specifically the road and bridge construction needs of local communities.  I saw the way traffic left the interstate highways and affects local roads and structures, and learned of the never-ending need for infrastructure funding.  In the road construction business, I learned that private industry requires long-term planning and dedicated funding sources.  It is simply a fact that no employer will make plans to hire more workers or purchase million dollar pieces of equipment without long-term security in government contracts.  And no state or local government can make long-term plans without certainty in federal transportation spending.  As a House negotiator on the last five-year Highway Bill, I stressed that a longer view is needed, as is a reliable source of financing for these projects.  President Trump will ease these concerns.

From my seat as a subcommittee chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have been a champion of Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) because of their mutual benefit to taxpayers and private enterprise.  The Trump approach to refurbishing our transportation system is an extension of that P3 practice, writ large.  It has long been my view that government itself rarely directly creates jobs, rather, it can help create the conditions in which the private sector can thrive and grow the economy as it should.  The Trump plan does exactly this by offering private companies incentives to invest in infrastructure programs, while also bringing large chunks of their assets back to American shores. 

The president’s plan to inject hundreds of billions of dollars into highways, bridges, railways, and airports by using private sector involvement is an innovative approach I wholeheartedly support.  By offering tax credits, the government will induce private firms to invest in construction projects as a means to improve their bottom lines.  At the same time, increased revenue to those private companies would boost job creation and employee income, increasing economic activity and tax revenue simultaneously.  Economic analysts estimate the idea would create about 3.3 million jobs in construction and related industries, greatly benefiting the overall American economy.  Put into proper practice, a robust infrastructure plan is not only a transportation program, it is a jobs program as well.

During the presidential campaign, much was made of domestic companies which have sheltered trillions of dollars of their capital overseas, and the Trump infrastructure plan also tackles that problem.  With a discounted repatriation rate, these firms could return their cash to the United States and use the infrastructure tax credits to offset their costs.  This will have the effect of bringing money back into the domestic economy which previously had been unavailable, and would perfectly marry tax policy with domestic infrastructure programs.

One final barrier to increased investment in infrastructure improvements is the blizzard of red tape that any willing private firm has encountered upon contact with the federal government.  As a businessman, Donald J. Trump has seen this obstacle and knows that it must be cleared away if there is to be any meaningful involvement of American entrepreneurs in our infrastructure revival.  He knows that every dollar spent on supporting or adding to the bureaucratic maze of Washington, DC is a dollar that will not be spent on a road or bridge somewhere in America.  This is the mindset we have been waiting for.

I have grown weary of the short-term patch approach to transportation funding.  Long-term planning is needed, as is a dedicated funding source to consistently supply our transportation infrastructure needs.  The time has come to dispense with the old way of doing the people’s business and to employ a new, business-like approach to governing.  As someone with great interest in transportation policy and the economic benefits that can result, I am on board with the Trump plan to rejuvenate our infrastructure, create jobs, and make America globally competitive again.

Rep. Lou Barletta (PA-11) is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.