Trump admin sends mixed messages on infrastructure plan
President Donald Trump and his top economic adviser appear to have different views about the use of public-private partnerships for building projects, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN.
The Washington Post first reported Sunday that Trump expressed doubts about the partnerships to Republican leaders Friday at a congressional retreat at Camp David to discuss the GOP’s 2018 agenda, of which infrastructure is expected to be a major part.
But on Saturday morning, White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn “delivered a detailed proposal on infrastructure and public-private partnerships that seemed to contradict the President.”
Cohn said the administration hoped $200 billion in federal spending would trigger about $1 trillion in state, local and private spending, the Post reported, citing people familiar with his comments.
The difference of opinion could create some uncertainty about how the administration plans to proceed with the infrastructure plan. One of the hallmark promises of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was to repair the country’s aging highways, bridges, railroads and airports.
Asked about the Post’s report, deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said Trump’s “infrastructure vision is very clear and is based around two main goals: leveraging federal funds as efficiently as possible in order to generate over $1 trillion in infrastructure investment and expediting the burdensome and lengthy permitting process.”
A White House official added that public-private partnerships, while part of the administration’s review of infrastructure policy, “are certainly not the silver bullet for all of our nation’s infrastructure problems and we will continue to consider all viable options.”
Trump has previously expressed skepticism about public-private partnerships when it comes to infrastructure. In September, the Post, citing a House Democrat who met with Trump and a White House official, reported that Trump was backing off the idea of having private investors play a major role in infrastructure financing.
Late last month, a White House official said the proposal — set to be unveiled within the next couple of weeks — would propose spending at least $200 billion on infrastructure projects over the next decade, with the hopes of spurring an additional $800 billion in state and local funding. Trump predicted the proposal would easily garner bipartisan support.
This story has been updated.