US, November 6, 2019.- The office of the President of the United States has published an interesting report on the health of the infrastructure of the United States and its improvements. Thanks to this White House initiative, we know a detailed diagnosis of our infrastructure deficits and the necessary investment to correct them. I reproduce below for your interest.
Before, I remember the disagreement between the investment figures. According to CNBC, President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have even agreed on a price tag of $ 2 trillion – although the American Society of Civil Engineers puts it closer to $ 4.5 trillion. However, talks have stalled.
Root Causes of Our Infrastructure Deficit
The Federal Government inefficiently invests in infrastructure. In part, our lack of sustained progress in addressing our infrastructure deficit is due to confusion about the proper Federal role. For example, during the construction of the Interstate Highway System, the Federal Government played a key role—collecting and distributing tax revenue to fund a project with a national purpose. As we neared the completion of that system, those tax receipts were redirected to projects with substantially weaker nexus to Federal interests. The flexibility to use Federal dollars to pay for essentially local projects has created an unhealthy dynamic in which State and local governments delay projects in the hope of receiving Federal funds. Overreliance on Federal grants, whose non-Federal matching requirements have decreased over the years, has created a disincentive for non-Federal revenue generation. Further, while Federal funding represents a small share of overall spending, that investment results in Federal requirements being applied far beyond what the Federal financial and ownership share would suggest.
In addition, bureaucratic red tape causes infrastructure projects that can significantly improve our quality of life, safety, environmental quality, and economic competiveness to languish for years. The overly complex, time-consuming, and uncertain environmental review process deters infrastructure investment, wastes resources, and delays important project benefits. For example, the median time to complete an environmental review process of complex highway projects was at least 7 years according to a 2014 report by the Government Accountability Office. This is why the President set an ambitious but achievable goal to complete environmental reviews in two years, while continuing to safeguard the environment.
The Administration’s Plan: Address the Infrastructure Deficit’s Root Causes
Through the following programs, the Budget provides necessary resources to close America’s infrastructure gap by generating at least $1.5 trillion in overall public and private investment during the next decade:
• Incentive Grants — $100 billion in competitive grants to applicants that demonstrate innovative approaches to generating new revenue streams, prioritizing maintenance, and modernizing procurement practices.
• Rural Formula Funds – $50 billion in formula grants to address rural infrastructure needs, including broadband internet service. A bonus competition would also occur based on State performance in achieving goals outlined in State-developed rural infrastructure plans. 2019 Budget Fact Sheet Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure.
• Transformative Projects – $20 billion in competitive funding for commercially viable transformative projects that are capable of generating revenue, provide net public benefits, and would have a significant positive impact on the Nation, a region, State, or metropolitan area.
• Expand Federal Leveraging Programs – $14 billion in additional subsidy funding for key Federal credit programs that finance infrastructure projects, along with expanded eligibility to other sectors such as airports and ports. Private Activity Bonds (PABs), which often support regionally- and nationally-significant projects, would have broaden eligibility and flexibilities. The Budget estimates the cost of these policy expansions at $6 billion.
• Federal Capital Revolving Fund – $10 billion to establish a mandatory revolving fund to finance purchases, construction, or renovation of Federally-owned civilian real property. This fund would provide upfront funding needed for large Federal real property projects, and then require agencies to repay the Fund using discretionary appropriations.
• Real Property Reforms – The Administration supports proposals to increase opportunities to sell off Federal real property that is no longer needed, which will generate revenue to improve other Federal facilities and return sites to private use, helping spur local economic development. The Budget also supports flexibilities for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to right-size its real property inventory and construct new facilities to serve veterans.
• Reduce Deferred Maintenance on Public Lands ––The Budget also proposes a new Department of the Interior Public Lands Infrastructure Fund to support infrastructure investments in public lands. The Fund would be supported by half of the incremental receipts from expanded energy development that exceed previous projections and are not allocated for other purposes.
• Streamline Permits – In addition to providing additional Federal funding, the infrastructure initiative includes several proposals to streamline permitting decisions to accelerate project delivery while maintaining environmental safeguards.