On April 30, 2019, President Trump met with Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Expectations for this meeting were high, as it was seen as one of the last opportunities to reach compromise on an ‘infrastructure deal’. As noted by Greg Louder, managing director at Arnold & Porter law firm, “This is an issue that is not inherently partisan and if all parties involved commit to forging ahead with a reasonable finance plan that respects major stakeholder interests, congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle can get a deal done.” Congressional leadership indicates the meeting was productive with Sen. Charles Schumer (R-NY) saying “there was goodwill” on both sides about developing a major infrastructure bill. The Democrats did not mention the cost of an infrastructure bill in a recent letter they sent to the President Trump, although many Democrats view $1 trillion as a starting point. In an unusual stance, the Republican president said he wants to spend more than the Democrats-$2 trillion on infrastructure.
However, as they say, the devil is in the details, and part of what the Democrats want as part of any infrastructure bill is to have climate change integrated. On April 29, 2019, Senate Minority Leader, Schumer sent a letter to the President including their ‘demands’ for any deal-such demands extend beyond climate change and also address identification of “new and real revenue” and labor protections for American workers. Post meeting both sides seemed upbeat that a deal could be reached, as there is broad agreement about the need to fund our nation’s aging infrastructure. However, no specifics were discussed in terms of funding such a massive undertaking. Herein lays the difficulty in having this agreement in principle be implemented. One option advanced separately by House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and other Democrats calls for raising the gas tax by 18.4 cents per gallon. This tax hasn’t been increased since 1993, primarily because it is not a popular funding alternative and representatives are hesitant to be on record supporting this tax. Republicans and even White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, are stepping away from the idea of raising the gas tax. Kudlow is quoted as saying he is “not a big fan” and “If states want to do it, that’s up to them.”
Many Republican leaders expressed concern about funding and have previously noted that the $1.5 trillion package mentioned by the president in the State of the Union address had few details, particularly funding sources. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) is quoted as saying “I think the president is right as far as proposing it, but in infrastructure you’re talking about money.” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) is quoted as saying, “$2 trillion is probably a trillion dollars higher than most people were expecting.” Similarly, the public at large generally supports infrastructure upgrades but is concern