One component of President Trump’s overall federal budget plan that was announced yesterday calls for $200 billion toward national infrastructure investment, which could balloon to an approximate $1.5-$1.7 trillion total when combined with requisite state investments. The budget proposal would effectively increase the monies states would have to invest in order to receive federal funds.
While Trump’s plan will likely undergo modifications as it winds through Congress, leaders in New Jersey are already pondering its potential impacts, including its possible effect on the Gateway project – the planned multi-faceted expansion of the Northeast Corridor rail connection between Newark and New York City.
“The early indications of the federal infrastructure plan released this week are underwhelming, at best, for New Jersey,” said Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA). “We are still analyzing the intricacies of the plan, but our higher-level view is it appears this is yet another case where we, as a massive donor state, are not getting our fair share. We are right at the top as one of the highest-taxed states in the nation and the disproportion of what we receive in federal aid or spending continues to be glaring.”
Siekerka added, “The 20 percent cap on the federal share of projects will put an additional onus on New Jersey taxpayers that are already stretched to the limits. Projects that have national significance, such as the Gateway project, should justifiably receive more federal dollars.”
Of note, the Gateway project is affected not only by the extent to which Trump’s budget might emerge in a different iteration, but also, in part, whether or not it can receive funding from other sources, including, perhaps, the Department of Defense or Homeland Security, since Gateway would provide critical transit redundancy during any national emergenices.
Philip Beachem, president of the New Jersey Alliance for Action, says, “Congress could change what is proposed by the president. I am hoping that we can convince Congress and the president that Gateway is more than just a transportation project, and should be eligible for additional funding from other departments, at the federal level. And once we know that, we can then determine what is left for our state responsibilities.”
Greg Lalevee, business manager, ELEC Local 825, adds, “We hope maybe the president’s plan is a starting point and certainly not a finishing point, because there is a lot to do with infrastructure in New Jersey and in our country, and it needs a serious look, and it needs serious funding. We have waited too long, and each day is a lost job opportunity and job creation.”
The federal infrastructure plan additionally addresses the issue of cumbersome federal permitting, which can hamstring infrastructure projects in a bureaucratic maze. The plan aims to streamline the process.