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Senate Democrats: Trump would cut more in infrastructure spending than he proposes to add

This is what President Trump is proposing in his transportation budget. (Video: Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

Despite his much-touted plans to spur significant increases in infrastructure investment, President Trump’s budget would actually cut more federal spending on such programs than it would add, according to an analysis by Senate Democrats.

In the budget the Republican president formally presented Tuesday, he proposes to spend $200 billion over the coming decade to make good on a campaign promise to spur $1 trillion in new investments in roads, bridges, airports, waterways and other ailing infrastructure.

Under Trump’s plan, the new federal spending would prompt private companies and state and local governments to scale up their spending many times over.

An analysis released by the office of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), however, cites $206 billion in cuts to an array of existing infrastructure programs included in Trump’s budget document over the coming decade.

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John Czwartacki, communications director for the Office of Management and Budget, said Schumer misunderstood the Trump administration's aims and unfairly characterized a major spending reduction.

“Senator Schumer is missing the point of the infrastructure initiative,” Czwartacki said. “Our budget intends to dedicate $200 billion in federal funding to improve infrastructure but also to re-engineer the way our programs work to maximize co-investment from state, local and private parties and ensure that we can stretch all those dollars further by eliminating red tape.”

Schumer's analysis cited cuts to several transportation programs, including $96 billion over the next decade to the Highway Trust Fund, the largest source of federal spending on transportation projects. Czwartacki objected to calling that a cut, saying the Trump administration will be limited by anticipated tax revenue that will not match planned spending. Democrats, however, suggested that the administration could have proposed some way to make up what has become a recurring shortfall in the program.

In his budget, Trump also proposes the elimination of a discretionary grant program launched by President Barack Obama that was slated to spend nearly $500 million a year on highways, public transit and other projects. And he proposes cutting $928 million from a federal program to help fund local transit projects next year.

Other spending categorized as infrastructure by Schumer includes funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, public housing repairs and revitalization, and about a dozen other programs.

Under Trump’s infrastructure initiative, new federal funding would ramp up over several years. The budget includes $5 billion for fiscal 2018, peaking with an outlay of $50 billion in 2021. Higher levels of funding would phase out in 2027.

In the budget document, the Trump administration says its goal “is to seek long-term reforms on how infrastructure projects are regulated, funded, delivered and maintained.”

“Simply providing more Federal funding for infrastructure is not the solution,” the document says. “Rather, we will work to fix underlying incentives, procedures and policies to spur better and more efficient infrastructure decisions and outcomes, across a range of sectors, including surface transportation, airports, waterways, ports, drinking and waste water, broadband and key Federal facilities.”