A draft plan for the Trump Administration’s “Infrastructure Incentives Initiative” has leaked, offering the first glimpse into a highly-anticipated effort to fund road and bridge improvements across the country.
For Alabama, the draft plan raises major questions as to how the state will compete for grants without a revenue mechanism to match federal funds.
The plan was first reported by Axios’ Jonathan Swan, who seems to be getting all the major scoops from the White House lately. A copy is now available online via the Alabama Daily News here: WH Draft principles.
Titled “Funding Principles,” the eight-page draft memo outlines how 50 percent of the federal road appropriation would be distributed through a competitive grant program to states, local governments and other “Eligible entities.”
Various factors would decide what grant applications are successful, with the most important by far being the ability of entities to raise their own revenue streams for construction and maintenance.
According to the draft plan, 50 percent of the grant application is weighted on “Evidence supporting how applicant will secure and commit new, non-federal revenue to create sustainable, long-term funding.”
Another 20 percent is weighted toward “Evidence supporting how applicant will secure and commit new, non-federal revenue for operations, maintenance and rehabilitation.”
Other factors are weighed much less, such as the full dollar value of a project (10 percent), incorporation of new technologies (five percent), pass-thru efficiencies (10 percent) and the contribution to economic development (five percent).
Should the Trump Administration implement the draft plan as part of a Congressionally-enacted infrastructure bill, there would be an unmistakable and heavy preference toward states and local governments who can pony up their own resources to match federal funds. That could prompt Alabama political leaders and policymakers to move forward on an infrastructure plan of their own.
A proposal to revitalize the state’s aging roads and bridges through new gas tax revenues failed to pass during the 2017 legislative session and appears to be a non-starter in the current session as well. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), would have incrementally raised Alabama’s gas and diesel tax by nine cents a gallon to support a $2.45 billion bond issue to build and repair roads and bridges across the state. While the bill saw widespread support from legislative leadership, the governor, and trade associations during the 2017 regular session, it failed to receive enough votes to clear a procedural hurdle in the House.