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Monday, February 12, 2018

Higgins says Trump infrastructure proposal is 'filled with potholes'

All WNY News     Monday, February 12, 2018    

PRESS RELEASE



Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26), a member of the House of Representatives Committees on Budget and Ways and Means, warned an infrastructure proposal released by the White House, is nothing more than a mirage.

Higgins says, "The President's plan, framed as a $1.5 trillion investment, provides a minimal federal commitment – $20 billion a year – while shifting costs to local governments, taxpayers and commuters."

In addition, the President's Fiscal Year 2019 budget does further damage to transportation improvement efforts by cutting programs available to assist localities.  This includes:
  • Elimination of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program which has supported construction of the Niagara Falls Train Station, Cars Sharing Main Street, and would be the source for a pending grant application for the DL&W metro rail extension and expansion project.  
  • Elimination of the Federal Transit Administration New Starts Program.  The potential source of funding for the NFTA light rail Amherst extension.
  • Elimination of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, a cut of over $21 million to Western New York municipalities for neighborhood enhancement projects including infrastructure.  
Higgins is sponsoring his own infrastructure bill, the Nation Building Here At Home Act, which would invest $1.263 trillion in federal funding for projects over the next 5 years.  The allocation represents the difference between the projected level of U.S. infrastructure investment and what the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says is needed to meet U.S. infrastructure needs.
Trump's $200 billion infrastructure plan:
  • $100B  to state/local governments to attract non-federal funding ($10B/yr)
    • Half would go to a competitive grant program that preferences projects that raise funds through taxes, fees, and tolls, in which the federal share would account for a mere 20% of the project.  The federal cost share on infrastructure projects has traditionally been 80%. 
  • $50 billion for rural infrastructure provided through block grants to states
  • $20 billion for "transformative projects"
  • $20 billion to expand existing credit programs
  • $10 billion for a capital financing fund
Comparison of the two plans:

President Trump Infrastructure Proposal Rep. Higgins' Nation Building Here at Home Act
Total $1.5 trillion over 10 years $1.263 trillion over 5 years
Direct Federal Investment $200 billion over 10 years $1.263 trillion over 5 years
Annual federal investment $20 billion/year $232.6 billion/year
Federal Match/Cost Sharing on Projects 20% federal 80% federal

Current highway law authorizes $61 billion per year in federal transportation investment, though annual appropriations have lagged this amount.  This means that the administration's proposal is equal to approximately 30% of existing funding levels, while professional engineers have indicated that a 380% increase, as called for in Rep. Higgins' bill, is required.
Higgins said, "We've spent over $200 billion investing in the roads and bridges of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Now is the time for the federal government to step up, put Americans to work and invest in our infrastructure and communities."

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