On February 8, 2019, Fred Wagner was quoted in Inside IPA on how sources are lowering their expectations for enacting major infrastructure legislation, because of the lack of progress toward a deal on new funding for projects, though the White House is pressing ahead on eased rules for environment and climate reviews that many infrastructure projects must undertake.
According to the article, many hopes were deflated when Trump's February 5 state of the union address devoted only a few fleeting moments to infrastructure and unveiled no new details.
"It was a major disappointment," said Wagner. "I think there was some hope, because it is one of the areas where opportunity for collaboration would be. But there needed to be some signals at least as to how something could move forward . . . and there was nothing. So, I think many advocates . . . have expressed very bitter disappointment there was not more to hang their hat on."
Wagner says it is unlikely that a plan the White House floated last year -- dramatically reducing the federal funding contribution for projects from 80 percent down to 20 percent, with state and local officials, private funding and tolls comprising the rest -- is still on the table. Yet, it is impossible "to glean that from the two sentences in the speech."
Prior to the address, Wagner said the administration had offered signals of movement, including comments from the National Economic Council on other options for infrastructure funding. Now, there is "no sense if the White House is willing to cede ground, and that was the big thing everybody was waiting for."
Wagner notes it did not have to be explicit, such as offering support for a federal gas tax increase. "But [Trump] had to say something that there would be public sources of funding and to promote this as an important national initiative. And he didn't even do that. So, my indication is there is not internal agreement in the White House on what is acceptable, and it is difficult to kick start the discussion unless and until there is a signal."