comments or suggestions?
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    « Mind the Gap: Transit Lessons from New York and London | Main | London’s airport conundrum »

    Obama unveils plans to pump billions into US infrastructure in Miami speech

    Barack Obama unveiled new plans to pump billions into US infrastructure on Friday as he moved to return the focus back to the economy and jobs.

    Calling it his "partnership to rebuild America," Obama outlined proposals to revamp the nation's ailing highways, bridges and other public projects at Port Miami, which is undergoing a $2bn (£1.3bn) upgrade. The president, having shed his suit jacket, stood on a platform overlooking the tunnel project on Dodge Island to outline plans officials said would put the emphasis on private financing for public projects.

    "In a time of tight budgets we have got to do it in a way that will ensure taxpayers' money is spent wisely," he said during a short speech which lasted only a few minutes.

    He said investment of infrastructure had repaired 20,000 bridges, thousands of miles of roads and put tens of thousands of workers back in work. But he added that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave US infrastructure a D+ in a report earlier this month and warned the country had serious problems with its bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste disposal, ports, rail, roads and schools among other areas.

    Among his proposals were renewed calls for a $10bn "infrastructure bank." He also mentioned new plans for $4bn in loans and grants for infrastructure projects and tax breaks for foreign pension funds to encourage investment.

    The president addressed America's "ageing infrastructure badly in need of repair" during his state of the union speech in February. The "fix it first" policy called for investing $50bn in transportation infrastructure, subject to Congressional approval.

    Those proposals drew immediate fire from Republican rivals. House speaker John Boehner said: "It's easy to go out there and be Santa Claus and talk about all these things you want to give away, but at some point, somebody's got to pay the bill."

    Obama's new emphasis on private funding appears to be driven in part by Republican opposition to increased government spending. It comes as he used the Easter recess to put pressure on lawmakers to take action on immigration reform and to enact gun-control measures.

    A White House official said the president would press for infrastructure spending even as he continues his calls for other reforms. "As president you need to be able to do a lot of things at once," he said.

    The official said the proposals, which would need congressional approval, would not add to the federal budget deficit. Details of the proposals will be set out in the president's budget, expected to be released on 10 April.

    The latest proposals include subsidies for state and local bonds aimed at financing infrastructure projects and raising caps on private activity bonds. Foreign pension funds would also be exempt from taxes when they profit from investments in US infrastructure. A senior White House official said investment funds in countries including Canada were investing in foreign infrastructure projects but were effectively barred from the US because of the tax regime.

    "Investing in infrastructure not only makes our roads, bridges and ports safer and gives our businesses and workers the tools to compete successfully in the global economy, it also creates thousands of good American jobs that cannot be outsourced," the White House said in a statement.

    According to the ASCE, the US needs to invest $3.6tn in infrastructure by 2020 and has plans to spend only about $2tn, leaving an estimated shortfall of roughly $1.6tn.

    References (1)

    References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.