This column originally appeared in Business Life.
Although California is in the doghouse as far as the Trump Administration is concerned, we are the best prepared to capitalize on some of President Donald Trump’s proposals on infrastructure. Given the importance of an effective transportation system to our economic vitality, California and Los Angeles are already taking steps to address our critical infrastructure needs.
Last year, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act. SB 1 is a statewide funding and expenditure plan to repair, enhance and build California’s transportation infrastructure. In 2016, Los Angeles County voters overwhelmingly passed Measure M, a half-cent sales tax to fund mass transit projects that will transform the future of mobility and connectivity in Los Angeles.
Despite the taxpayer buy-in and legislative will power, these efforts are not enough to meet our transportation and infrastructure needs. Year after year, Los Angeles is ranked among the most congested cities in the world. The loss of productivity costs our economy hundreds of billions of dollars. Not to mention the toll that traffic is taking on our mental, physical and environmental health.
In order to make real progress on our efforts to reduce congestion and keep people moving, we need to think outside the box. Measure M projects are on a 40-year timeline, but in just 10 years Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Metro Board of Directors recently approved the Twenty-Eight by ’28 Initiative, a list of 28 projects that will be accelerated and completed by 2028.
Leveraging state dollars from SB 1, future federal funding, and engaging in public-private partnerships, we can accelerate the delivery of these and many more projects that will improve the quality of life and contribute to economic growth for years to come.
President Trump, a former real estate developer, has touted the improvement of America’s infrastructure as a top priority for his administration. In his State of the Union speech he reiterated the importance of infrastructure spending.
"Together,” President Trump said, “we can reclaim our building heritage. We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land.”
He didn’t get much more specific than that, but it’s clearly a priority for 2018. Although the details are sketchy, the outline is promising. He called upon Congress to pass a bill that will generate $1.5 trillion for infrastructure, but only committed to $200 billion from the federal government. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were left wondering: where’s the money coming from?
The Administration’s goal is to leverage private investment and state and local funds. In particular, the White House’s plan would spend about half of the proposed federal funds on competitive grant programs, rewarding states – like California – that are already doing their part to fix crumbling roads and highways.
So, where’s the federal money coming from? We still don’t know, but there are some ideas out there. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is shopping around a federal gas tax increase. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) suggested that tax revenue from repatriated income be invested in infrastructure.
Facilitating opportunities for private-public partnerships, however, seems to be the best bet for bringing in additional money. Businesses are willing to innovate and eager to invest in projects that foster economic growth.
California is ready to deliver gleaming new roads and railways across our Golden State. So, Congress: show us the money!