For months, it was well-known that President Donald Trump‘s much-hyped infrastructure proposal was only going to include minimal federal funding.
In the face of that, a group of Democratic mayors expressed profound disappointment Thursday with the details of the plan.
The proposed $1.5 trillion to upgrade the country’s highways, airports and railroads will contain “only” about $200 billion from Washington, with the rest contingent on funding from states, cities and the private sector.
“This plan is nothing more than reshuffling the deck chairs on the ‘U.S.S. infrastructure vessel’ that is taking water over the bow,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn cracked during a conference call Thursday.
Hosted by the Democratic National Committee, Buckhorn was joined on the call by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, and Pittsburgh Mayor Eric Peduto.
Trump’s plan shifts the burden from a traditional partnership between the federal and local governments to incentives for the private sector, with the rest of the burden given to local taxpayers, Buckhorn said, something that requires higher matches from municipalities.
“We don’t have the ability to do the match that they’re looking for. We don’t have the ability to provide the resources to invest in a failing infrastructure system, absent a significant partner in the federal government,” complained the mayor. “That’s just our reality.”
The mayors fear that the feds’ decision to choose which project to support could come down to which one has the potential to bring in more private investment versus a project essential to a community.
“The plan the president put forth is woefully flawed,” Whaley lamented.
Garcetti said the work that cities do on infrastructure “is not abstract, statistical, or a policy initiative, this is about people’s lives, about getting home to their families, about decisions they can make about what jobs they can take.”
“If we drive over a pothole,” he added, “we feel it too.”
It’s certainly a far cry from what Garcetti’s Los Angeles recently did in passing Proposition M in 2016, which authorized $120 billion for infrastructure investment over the next decade.
Although Buckhorn was a major supporter of Hillary Clinton‘s campaign in 2016 and has often criticized the president, he said he had high hopes about Trump’s sincerity when it came to wanting to help cities replenish their aging infrastructure.
“We were excited to hear the president talk about infrastructure during the course of the campaign,” Buckhorn said. “He is a big city guy. He is a builder. He talked about an action plan for the first 100 days in office being a $1 trillion infrastructure investment over 10 years, and the mayors were willing to reach across the table, and find common ground with this president on the issue of infrastructure, because we know how important it is to us and how important it is to America.”
While the four mayors on the call were all Democrats, frustrations they’re feeling this week is universal among their Republican brethren.
“We need a partner,” Buckhorn said. “We’re not asking for a handout. We’re asking for a partnership.”
They’re still looking.