Trump’s giant $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan looks dead on arrival

President Donald Trump. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump used the State of the Union address to try to sell a new $US1.5 trillion infrastructure package.
  • The speech was light on details, and many lawmakers expressed scepticism about the proposal.
  • After the speech, policy analysts were bearish on a large infrastructure package’s chance of passing.

President Donald Trump was widely expected to use Tuesday’s State of the Union speech to offer details about his significant infrastructure investment proposal.

But many policy analysts came away disappointed at the lack of detail and sceptical about the chance of a large-scale investment in America’s roads and bridges.

“It was all adjectives and no maths,” Chris Krueger, a political strategist at Cowen Washington Research Group, told Business Insider.

The speech did clear up one question: the exact headline target for the project. Trump said he would invest $US1.5 trillion in the nation’s roads and bridges but offered few other specifics.

“I am asking both parties to come together to give us safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure that our economy needs and our people deserve,” Trump said.

But little is known about the plan outside of what the news website Axios said was a leaked draft memo outlining where some of the funding would go. It said most would come from state, local, and private investment rather than the federal government.

Not looking likely

Many analysts already think the plan has little chance of coming to fruition.

“On infrastructure, the president’s message was aspirational, but I am bearish given funding concerns and political headwinds,” Isaac Boltansky, a policy analyst at research firm Compass Point, told Business Insider on Wednesday.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have also expressed concerns about the plan. Many Republicans are wary of taking on any debt to pass such a bill and say funding sources will be key.

“You tell me how we pay for it, and I’ll tell you what we can do,” Sen. John Cornyn, the second-highest-ranking GOP senator, told reporters after Trump’s speech, adding, “Leveraging private dollars is a good start, but we got a lot of work to do.”

Democrats, meanwhile, criticised many of the plan’s approaches. Trump called for a “streamlining” of the permit-approval process for infrastructure projects, which Democrats say could be a way to bypass rules to protect the environment.

“The changes to regulatory reviews are likely to be a poison pill for many Congressional Democrats if it weakens environmental protections,” Ed Mills, a policy analyst at Raymond James, wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday.

Many Democrats are also worried that the proposed private-public partnerships could be abused and result in projects that are not as beneficial to communities.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said the lack of detail showed that the Trump administration does not have a plan to secure the funding, telling The Washington Post that the mention of infrastructure in the State of the Union address was “a throwaway line” that “avoids coming up with serious funding.”

Most analysts agreed that since any infrastructure bill would need at least nine Democratic votes in the Senate to clear procedural hurdles, the likelihood of a package passing this year is slim. Krueger said only one unfortunate avenue could prompt a plan like Trump’s to move through the legislature.

“Not to be morbid, but an infrastructure catastrophe could move the needle (bridge collapse or something) and spur congressional action,” Krueger told Business Insider. “Barring some kind of morbid catalyst, seems extremely unlikely.”