Trump's Big Infrastructure Plan Depends on Revenues: Lipinski
A key member of Illinois' congressional delegation says he's hoping for good things from President-elect Donald Trump's $1 trillion investment in the nation's infrastructure.
But how helpful the plan will be depends on whether Trump backs it up with real revenues, and not just tax cuts, says Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago.
In an interview, Lipinski, one of the more senior Democrats on the House Transportation Committee, applauded Trump's call to spend more money shoring up the nation's crumbling bridges and roads—a call that presumably includes repairs to aging mass transit train lines and buses. Under its current leadership, the committee is likely to be fair to urban areas despite GOP control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, Lipinski said.
But the congressman said his concern is that, instead of putting new money on the table, Trump will "be giving tax incentives to encourage lending."
That "doesn't make a lot of sense," since lending has to be repaid, and neither roads nor public transit pays for itself, Lipinski said. "All tax incentives do is make it cheaper to borrow for transportation projects. But you still have to pay that money back."
What's really needed are "user fees"—taxes on gasoline or licenses, tolls on roads, whatever—and "as of yet" there is no sign GOP congressmen are willing to consider that, given longtime conservative opposition to tax hikes of any kind, Lipinski said.
Ergo, when Trump introduces his proposal, "What it's quickly going to come to is: We need a revenue source. I'm hopeful that if Trump will come around and accept some sort of user fee increase, he'll get enough Democrats and Republicans to pass it."
Lipinski did not mention another possible deal that's been kicked around by some in Washington: lowering taxes on overseas corporate profits and using some of the proceeds for infrastructure. But that, too, would require expending some presidential capital.
The city recently moved to make it easier to borrow. It's in the process of establishing a tax-increment financing district on much of the North Side to pay the local cost of rebuilding the Red Line north. But Mayor Rahm Emanuel also has been seeking at least $1 billion in federal funds to pay for the big Chicago Transit Authority project.
"My hope is (Trump) actually wants to get things done and pulls the Republican Party in a more realistic direction," he said.
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