President Donald Trump this week unveiled his plan to reinvest in the nation's dilapidated infrastructure, but the plan opened to, shall we say, mixed reviews.
And the administration's plan fell short of Trump's campaign promise to spearhead a $1 trillion effort to rebuild roads, bridges and other critical parts of the nation's infrastructure.
The plan, as proposed by the president, devotes $200 billion in federal funding. Half of that amount would go toward providing matching funds for infrastructure efforts launched by states and cities. The idea presumably is to keep a lid on federal expenditures by encouraging those cities and states to invest in infrastructure work. The problem, of course, is that states and cities are not exactly rolling in cash. (This is part of the reason why the Albany City Council continues to kick around the idea of a 5-cent tax on gasoline sales; we'll have more to say about that in a later editorial.)
The Trump plan also relies on partnerships between the public and private sector, which isn't necessarily a bad idea for projects in which private investors will be able to get a decent return on their investment. But it potentially handicaps projects intended to renovate infrastructure in remote and rural areas; those are projects that will be less appealing to private investors, simply because the return on investment will be less.
Also, as numerous critics of the plan raced to point out this week, it doesn't have much to say on the important question of how to pay for the work. In fact, one administration official told reporters last weekend that "The president has said that he is open to new sources of funding."
So it was intriguing, later in the week, to see news reports that Trump had signaled support for a 25-cent increase in the federal fuel tax to pay for the plan. The president's comments came during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday with lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon. U.S. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware said Trump “came back to the idea of a 25-cent increase several times throughout the meeting."
DeFazio said he told Trump that the president would have to provide strong leadership on the matter, especially since House Speaker Paul Ryan has expressed no interest in increasing the tax.
Well, as we know by now, Trump is prone to changing his mind. (Just ask the people who were in the room when Trump said he was willing to "take the heat" on an immigration compromise.) But the fact that Trump is thinking about a fuel tax at all means he might be willing to reach out to a Democrat like DeFazio, who has decades of experience with this issue, to help build a workable and responsible plan to generate the funding our deteriorating infrastructure desperately needs. (mm)
A step forward
We wrote earlier this week about a bill from Albany Rep. Andy Olson that seeks to clarify Oregon law regarding hit-and-run incidents.
There's good news to report about the measure, House Bill 4055: It sailed through the full House on a unanimous vote Wednesday and now moves on to the Senate.
The bill modifies state statutes to add language that says drivers who aren't immediately aware that they have injured or killed someone in a crash must call 911 and perform other duties as soon as they learn they were involved.
The bill is inspired by the heart-wrenching October 2013 case in Forest Grove in which two girls were run over as they lay in a leaf pile. The driver of the car was convicted in the case, but a judge with the Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, ruling that state law does not require a driver to return to the scene of an accident after leaving and later learning that someone was injured or killed. Olson's bill aims to close that particular loophole. (mm)