By Jack Torry
Washington Bureau and
President Donald Trump will visit Cincinnati Wednesday as part of a major push for a proposed $1 trillion overhaul of the nation’s infrastructure, a key item on a multi-pronged agenda that’s been largely stymied in Congress and overshadowed by White House controversies.
White House officials say Trump will land at Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport via Air Force One before heading to Rivertowne Marina, 4601 Kellogg Ave., for a 1 p.m. speech.
“The time has come for us to reinvest in American infrastructure. We have fallen to 12th in the world, which is unacceptable,” said Gary Cohn, Director of the National Economic Council, in emailed remarks from a Trump spokeswoman.
“President Trump is committed to rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure by taking action to generate $1 trillion of investment by partnering with state and local governments and utilizing the expertise and financing ability of the private sector. Our goal is to bring about greater job growth, increased productivity and a healthy economy for generations to come,” Cohn said.
The Peter G. Petersen Foundation last year said the U.S. ranked 12th in the quality of its overall infrastructure, behind Germany, France and nine other countries. The non-profit, which focuses on the country’s fiscal and economic issues, cited data on 20 countries from the World Economic Forum.
The president is expected to address ways of improving levees, dams and locks along inland waterways that are crucial to agricultural exports.
The administration informally referred to this week as “infrastructure week,” and on Monday Trump unveiled a plan to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system.
Cohn said governors and mayors are scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House on Thursday for a listening session focused on the efficient use of tax dollars for infrastructure projects.
On Friday, Trump will visit the Transportation Department to discuss regulatory changes related to roads and railways. Trump has noted that the approval process for permits frequently can drag on for a decade and has pressed to shorten the length of the review process.
Trump’s focus on infrastructure follows the government’s monthly jobs report, which showed hiring slowing down in May. The economy has added an average of 121,000 jobs over the past three months, down from a monthly average of nearly 187,000 last year.
In recent weeks, Trump’s agenda has been overshadowed by ongoing probes into whether Trump campaign officials or associates colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 election, as well as scrutiny over Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, who is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
RELATED: White House tries to regroup, but Trump isn’t helpingFixing crumbling infrastructure is a topic that tends to have wide public support, though President Barack Obama, was repeatedly thwarted by a Republican-led Congress in his efforts to revamp deteriorating roads, bridges, airports and railways.
Cohn said everyone has a stake in the president’s plan.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are farmer in the Midwest, or a mother driving your kids to and from school, or a worker or a college kid flying back and forth to school, you’re affected by infrastructure,” Cohn said in a conference call with reporters.
RELATED: US employers add modest 138K jobs; rate dips to 4.3 percentThe administration has pointed to plans for a package of tax breaks meant to help spur $1 trillion in new spending on roads, bridges and other construction during the next decade. According to Trump’s budget proposal, the funding would come from $200 billion in tax breaks over nine years that would then — in theory — leverage $1 trillion worth of construction.
A senior White House official has said the infrastructure plan might also give local governments incentive to sell their existing infrastructure to private firms.
Opposition is expected in Congress, and Democrats have already warned that the Trump budget reduces infrastructure spending elsewhere, including cuts to Amtrak subsidies, the elimination of an infrastructure investment program started under Obama and a more than $90 billion drop off in congressional support for the Highway Trust Fund over 10 years.
Democrats have also been critical of Trump’s interest in forging public-private partnerships instead of more traditional spending on infrastructure projects. At the same time, many conservative Republicans have been wary of the idea of a massive government investment.