President Trump’s infrastructure plan and his budget for the next fiscal year certainly put the onus on states and cities for funding transportation projects. Among a series of proposals ranging from rural infrastructure to the buying and selling of federal land, the most impactful piece of Trump’s $200 billion proposal could directly affect transportation in downtown KC.
Kansas City was initially awarded a $20 million TIGER grant (Transportation investment generating economic recovery) in 2013 to help with the initial build of the streetcar. With the streetcar poised for expansion, Trump’s budget proposal would eliminate those TIGER grants. In his proposal, President Trump wants to cut government incentives for state and city projects, putting them on the hook for 80% of the funding and matching up to 20%.
David Johnson is an elected member of the new Streetcar Transportation Development District (TDD). The TDD taxes are are large part of what fund the project. “Cities and states are already providing a funding share of all federal projects,” says Johnson. “transit specially providing at least 50% local match (more than all other modes). 20% federal match is a *reduction* in participation.” With that reduction, we asked Johnson if the streetcar proponents would think about attacking their funding differently for the proposed expansion. His answer was pretty straightforward: “No,” said Johnson, “There’s no reason to believe Congress will let the Capital Investment Grant program lapse completely, as the administration wants.” This isn’t the first time that Trump has attempted to get rid of the TIGER grants. He had a similar proposal in his 2017 budget which is the reason Johnson is so confident that their funding will stay secure. “Congress has bucked presidents on this before, as this Congress did in their FY17 budget. They like bringing bacon home to constituents. Specifically the Senate, which isn’t as affected by rural interests that might not understand the benefit of these investments.”
We reached out to Missouri’s Senators to get their comments on the infrastructure plan released by President Trump. Senator Roy Blunt (R) emailed a statement saying:
“As a hub for our nation’s highways, railways, and waterways, improving the strength, safety, and reliability of our infrastructure is critical for maintaining our state’s competitive advantage. The president’s focus on expediting new projects, leveraging federal dollars to boost state, local, and private-sector investment, and modernizing rural infrastructure, including broadband expansion, provides a solid foundation for the committee to begin its work on a broad, bipartisan bill. I look forward to getting to work on a plan that will ensure we have the infrastructure network our economy needs to grow, create jobs, and drive innovation.”
As of the writing of this article, Senator McCaskill had not sent us her statement.
Kansas governor Jeff Colyer (R) also released a statement regarding the plan:
“The President’s plan is designed in such a way that state and local governments will retain most of the decision-making power. That is good for two reasons; first, local decision makers are more accountable and better equipped to maximize the value of every taxpayer dollar. Secondly and more importantly; Kansans know what Kansas needs more than bureaucrats in Washington do and I’m pleased that the administration understands that.
“For too long rural America has been overlooked and undervalued. The administration’s Rural Infrastructure Program invests $50 Billion in rural communities, the bulk of which is block-granted to states, so that the leaders on the ground can direct the money in the most efficient manner. Investing in infrastructure is key to jumpstarting economic development and job growth, and we are excited to see this much-needed investment in rural America.”