- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2018

President Trump on Monday pushed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan with a bipartisan group of state and local lawmakers, declaring that he would loosen the red tape that has a stranglehold on construction projects.

“We’re going to get the roads in great shape,” Mr. Trump said at the White House meeting where he introduced the plan. “Washington no longer will be a roadblock to progress.”

The plan got a cool reception form Democrats on Capitol Hill, but the elected leaders at the table welcomed Mr. Trump by standing and applauding.

The long-awaited infrastructure plan, which was a top campaign promise from Mr. Trump in 2016, seeks $200 billion in new spending to leverage a total $1.5 trillion investment by state and local governments over 10 years.

The plan relies heavily on reforming the federal approval process that the White House blames for stymieing projects and driving up costs.

Democratic leaders have called for $1 trillion in direct federal spending to rebuild infrastructure.

Mr. Trump told the elected leaders that his plan targets rural infrastructure needs, including broadband internet service, that have long been overlooked by Washington.

“The rural folks have been left out,” he said.

The plan sets four goals:

• Stimulate $1.5 trillion of new investment in infrastructure.

• Shorten the permitting process to two years.

• Target invest in rural infrastructure such as broadband internet service with $50 billion in block grants to states.

• Improve workforce training, including expanding Pell Grant eligibility to students pursuing certification or credentials for in-demand fields.

The proposal met immediate resistance from Capitol Hill Democrats and their union allies.

“Devolving the federal government’s funding responsibility to cash-strapped states and municipalities will leave too many projects and jobs behind,” said Larry I. Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO.

The White House gathering of 24 state and local elected leaders included 18 Republicans, five Democrats and one independent.

Mr. Trump was surrounded by eight governors (six Republicans and five Democrats), the Republicans agriculture commissioner of Kentucky, six Republican state legislators, seven mayors (three Republicans, three Democrats and one independent), and two Republican county commissioners.

The independent at the table was Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

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