LMCC Comments on Trump's infrastructure Plan

April 6, 2018 - CLDC LMCC LECET

Trump's infrastructure plan gets mixed reviews in Illinois
By Greg Bishop | Watchdog.org
, Apr 5, 2018 

Illinois lawmakers are hearing the good and the bad of President Donald Trump's 10-year, $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.

Trump’s plan would not replace existing infrastructure programs that states and local governments are already taking part in. It would be in addition to those programs with the federal government offering up $200 billion and state and local governments making up the rest.

The Illinois House Transportation: Regulation, Roads & Bridges Committee heard Wednesday from Illinois stakeholders about what the plan would mean for Illinois during a hearing in Chicago.

“Those regulatory barriers, they just put less work out there,” Sturino said. “There was continued deterioration of infrastructure, delays and outright inability to reduce congestion, so [relaxing regulations is] very welcomed.”

One part of Trump's plan that Sturino said likely won’t help Illinois is the tens of billions of dollars the federal government proposes setting aside for rural projects.

“This is really going to go to more of the Wyomings, and the Oklahomas, and the Dakotas, those very sparsely populated states,” Sturino said.

Metropolitan Planning Council’s Audrey Wennink criticized part of the plan she said prioritizes highly innovative projects like “space travel from New York to L.A. to allow trips within 30 minutes.” 

“These are really out-there ideas that they are looking for,” Wennink said. “Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, which has not been tested anywhere yet.”

Wennink added: “That does not bode well for large legacy transportation systems like ours that have a lot of traditional maintenance needs."

Other Illinois’ infrastructure stakeholders worry the state’s poor financial position could mean it will miss out on federal infrastructure dollars included in Trump’s plan.

Trump’s proposal for the additional funding relies more on local and state dollars than federal dollars, with an 80/20 split.

Chicagoland Laborers Executive Director Allison Howlett said that means the state needs to figure out its infrastructure funding situation quickly. 

“Kicking the can down the road doesn’t help anyone and now potentially could result in Illinois leaving the few federal dollars available to us on the table,” Howlett said.

Illinois has an $8 billion backlog of unpaid bills, a more than $200 billion unfunded public sector pension and retiree healthcare liability, and a fiscal year budget that’s more than $1 billion out of balance.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce’s Ben Brockschmidt said while there are incentives for more public-private partnerships, his members don’t see that as a secondary source of funding.

“From talking with our members who build, design and finance infrastructure projects, those types of incentives and approaches really are best when done as a supplement to funding,” Brockschmidt said.

While Brockschmidt said there are other things that could benefit Illinois, neither the administration nor Congress has put out any further details.