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Trump, Democrats plan infrastructure follow-up meeting on funding

Mark Niquette, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

President Donald Trump is set to meet next week with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss funding options for a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, according to a Senate aide.

The meeting is scheduled for May 22, the aide said. The Democrats said after their last meeting April 30 that Trump agreed on a $2 trillion goal for rebuilding crumbling U.S. public works but that it was up to the White House to come up way to pay for it.

Democratic leaders want Trump to present the options he could support for raising revenue as the starting point for negotiating a bipartisan plan -- because without the president's leadership, other Republicans won't go along and it will founder.

"If the president does not lead on how we're going to fund this infrastructure investment, it will not happen," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said during the kickoff Monday for "infrastructure week," sponsored by lobbying groups and other entities promoting more investment in public works.

Pelosi said during a meeting of the Transportation Construction Coalition on Tuesday that she wants the bill to include more than just roads and bridges, but transit systems, rural broadband, water systems and even schools and housing, she said.

"This is comprehensive," Pelosi said. "We don't want lawsuits, we want dirt to fly."

 

Funding methods discussed in the past include sales of bonds, a proposal to require the Department of Agriculture to sell its distressed assets to raise money for projects, and even selling underperforming student loans, mortgages and other federal debt for cash.

Trump has not stated a clear position on raising federal fuel taxes, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Trucking Associations and other infrastructure advocates say is the only realistic way to raise significant revenue in the short term.

Lawmakers who attended a closed-door meeting with the president in February 2018 said he told them he would support a 25-cent per-gallon increase. But Trump never endorsed that publicly, and White House officials including National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow have said they don't favor it.

Michael Burke, chairman and chief executive of the infrastructure firm AECOM and chairman of the Business Roundtable's Infrastructure Committee, said any funding plan can't rely completely on raising fuel taxes and will likely include other funding and financing methods.

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