Poll: User Fees Preferred Over Tax and Bond Financing for Infrastructure

A Reuters' poll on a national infrastructure investment program shows some support for a plan similar to one suggested, though not detailed, by Elaine Chao, President Trump's nominee for transportation secretary.

January 22, 2017, 11:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Toll Road

Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock

American were evenly split in opposing new taxes and support of hiking user fees and tolls, while 56 percent did not want debt financing. 

"The findings highlight a major challenge for a 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure program incoming President Donald Trump has promised: Everyone wants infrastructure, but almost no one wants to pay for it," report Luciana Lopez and Chris Kahn on the Dec. 16 – Jan. 12 Reuters/Ipsos poll released Jan. 19.

Elaine Chao, Trump’s transportation secretary nominee, at her confirmation hearing earlier this month repeatedly focused on the need to leverage private dollars. “Another major challenge is to unleash the potential for private investment in our nation’s infrastructure,” she said in her opening remarks.

"Chao emerged from the Senate Commerce Committee's hearing [Jan. 11] largely unscathed despite offering few concrete details about how she or Donald Trump planned to roll out a massive infrastructure investment program that the president-elect has promised," reported Kathryn A. Wolfe for POLITICO.

However, Ben Bernanke, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, pointed out an inherent problem in pursuing a strategy largely based on private investment, notes New York Times economics writer, Paul Krugman:

[I]f Congress opts to reduce the deficit impact of an infrastructure program by financing it through tax credits and public-private partnerships, as candidate Trump proposed, the program might turn out to be relatively small.

A broader investment program described by House Speaker Paul Ryan on Jan. 19 would combine public and private investment.

"For every one dollar of federal dollars, there's $40 of private sector spending,” Ryan said on the Charlie Rose Show, reports Melanie Zanona for The Hill. "We want to leverage as much private-sector dollars as possible to maximize the fixing of our infrastructure.”

Another poll finding was on priorities: Fix existing roads and bridges first while road expansion, mass transit and new technology should be secondary. A report from the Trump transition team posted Friday would certainly relegate transit investment to a lesser priority, if not outright eliminate it.

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update.

Thursday, January 19, 2017 in Reuters

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