President Trump asked Congress on Tuesday to pass an infrastructure package that would ultimately be worth $1.5 trillion, increasing the amount of investment in infrastructure over what he requested of lawmakers the last time he appeared before a joint session of Congress.
"Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need," Trump said during his first State of the Union address on Tuesday.
"Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment — to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit," Trump said. "Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process — getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one."
The president credited his administration’s massive deregulatory push with paving the way for infrastructure reform to proceed quickly if passed.
“America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just one year – isn’t it a disgrace that it can now take ten years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?” Trump said.“I am asking both parties to come together to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure that our economy needs and our people deserve,” he added.
In the days leading up to Trump's State of the Union, the White House had given little indication of how much detail Trump would reveal about his infrastructure plan during the speech. Senior administration officials said only that Trump would focus on the issue in an address aimed at bridging the divide between Republicans and Democrats.
Trump had called for a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure during his speech to a joint session of Congress last year. While he didn’t specify at the time how much taxpayer money would be required to reach that goal, he did say he hoped the funding would entail a mix of public and private investments.
“To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital — creating millions of new jobs,” Trump said last year. “This effort will be guided by two core principles: buy American and hire American.”
In the spring of 2017, the administration proposed spending $200 billion to spur investments of $800 billion in private capital over the next 10 years.
But the White House took months to fill in the details of its infrastructure plan, despite billing the policy issue as a top legislative priority heading into this year.
A draft of the infrastructure framework that leaked last week suggested the administration would focus heavily on rural areas that lack high-speed internet access and public transit. The draft plan would offer funding for such projects in the form of block grants to states, which would then have the ability to decide how best to spend the money in rural communities.
Critics have questioned whether the administration can shepherd an infrastructure plan through Congress during an election year, even though members of both parties have said they recognize the need to overhaul many of the country's roads and bridges.