Public-Private Partnerships

Since last week’s release of details of President Trump’s long-awaited infrastructure plan and his proposed FY 2019 budget, reaction has been rolling in. Here’s a primer on where to read more about the President’s overall approach to infrastructure and various aspects of the plan getting attention, as well as what various stakeholder groups and analysts are saying.

President Trump’s State of the Union speech and a leaked outline of his infrastructure package last month produced no shortage of opinions about what the administration has in mind for one of his major policy priorities. Many from across the transportation and public policy communities and from across the political spectrum have expressed serious concerns about the shape the package may be taking. Here’s a roundup of some of the reaction so far.

Issue: Infrastructure investment was expected to be a key policy goal of the Trump administration. While the administration did not produce a comprehensive plan to accomplish that in 2017—it’s now expected after the State of the Union in late January—details of the administration’s priorities that have emerged suggested an emphasis on more targeted federal investments, the use of federal dollars to encourage states that help themselves by seeking additional transportation revenues, and an effort to leverage private sector investment. In late September, the president appeared to sour on how big a role public-private partnerships, or P3s, could play in a federal investment package, but many continue to believe P3s could play a significant, if limited, role in facilitating some infrastructure projects.

2017 was a big year for state transportation funding efforts, following in the footsteps of recent odd-number years 2013 and 2015 that also saw significant activity. So, what’s on tap for 2018? Here’s my annual look ahead.

While 2017 is considered an off-year in most state election cycles, Election Day this year still will find transportation on the ballot in a variety of ways. From two key gubernatorial contests to state and local ballot measures, here’s a preview of what to look for on November 7 as well as updates on a few transportation-related matters already decided by voters.

President Trump this week appeared to back away from what was expected to be a cornerstone of his plan to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. Meanwhile, federal autonomous vehicle policy gets an update from the U.S. Department of Transportation and in new legislation expected to go before a U.S. Senate committee next week.

Issue: During the campaign, Donald Trump called for a $1 trillion package to invest in the nation’s infrastructure. But the devil likely will be in the details for both Republicans and Democrats when it comes to funding the plan and deciding what to fund. Beyond any one-time infrastructure investment in 2017 though, will Congress be able to hit the ground running so they can be ready when it comes time to reauthorize the FAST Act transportation authorization bill in 2020?

While not likely to be a major issue in the fall campaign, the future of the nation’s infrastructure did receive some attention in the party platforms released last month in advance of the Republican and Democratic presidential nominating conventions. The platforms reveal very different philosophies that could guide the federal government’s approach to infrastructure in the years to come and have a huge impact for states seeking to meet their future infrastructure needs. But the statements of the presidential candidates themselves on infrastructure issues are also prompting some attention this week.

New Jersey policymakers face a July 1 deadline to come up with a way to avert the impending insolvency of the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. Meanwhile, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy agreed last month to divert $50 million in sales tax revenues intended for his state’s Special Transportation Fund to help close a $1 billion budget deficit for the 2017 fiscal year. Such diversions have become commonplace in Connecticut and other states. Last December, Malloy called for a constitutional “lockbox” to prevent future diversions as a number of states have employed, but lawmakers could not agree this spring to put the measure on the November ballot. These stories return the spotlight to trust funds and lockboxes, which were the subject of a CSG Capitol Research brief last year.

Aubrey Layne is the secretary of transportation for the Commonwealth of Virginia and serves as the 2016 vice-chair of the CSG Transportation Public Policy Committee. He delivered a keynote address May 19 to state legislators from around the country attending the 6th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. He spoke about the Commonwealth’s recent efforts to reform its processes around transportation project prioritization and public-private partnerships.