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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Janison: Trump infrastructure pitch leans to red states

President Donald Trump meets with members of Congress

President Donald Trump meets with members of Congress in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Credit: Getty Images / Mandel Ngan

The nation’s red-state/blue-state divide goes pretty far in explaining the political logic behind parts of President Donald Trump’s fragmentary infrastructure proposal.

In December, sweeping corporate and individual tax cuts were funded in part by new limits on state and local tax deductibility.

Essentially, this meant that taxpayers nationwide — such as those in red Montana and Wyoming — get to do less to pick up the tab for high municipal taxes in Democratic-dominated places like New York.

That puts extra pressure on local government here to keep taxes down.

With Trump’s infrastructure pitch, similar pressure is applied to localities on the spending side.

That is, if state and local governments want to advance big road, bridge and rail projects, they’ll have to cough up bigger-than-traditional shares of the funding.

“If you want it badly, you’re going to get it,” the president told state and local leaders Monday at the White House. “And if you don’t want it, that’s OK with me, too.”

Of $200 billion in federal funding cited in Trump’s 10-year plan, $50 billion would purportedly go to rural areas for any mix of projects from sewers to airports to broadband data transmission.

Trump emphasized the broadband possibilities in presenting his proposal. “The rural folks have been left out, including broadband internet access, which they don’t have,” he said Monday.

“And they want it, the farmers want it. It will create thousands and thousands of jobs, and increase training for our great American workers, and it returns power to the state and local governments, who know best what people need.”

Representatives of the affected industry, however, pointed to the lack of specifically dedicated funding for broadband in Trump’s plan.

USTelecom, for one, declared in a statement:

“Broadband providers have invested more than $1.6 trillion over the past 20 years to connect our communities, but significant, direct support from the federal government is critical to bringing broadband’s benefits to all.”

William Galston of the centrist Brookings Institution panned the proposal that the Trump administration is trying to tag as a $1.5 trillion plan.

“Not only does the administration not specify where it will find the additional $200 billion of direct spending it calls for over the next decade,” Galston writes, “but also it makes what most experts regard as wildly unrealistic assumptions about the amount of state, local and private funding this modest increment will spark.”

Like the tax law, any final plan will be up to the houses of Congress, which already appear committed to other new spending.

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