In a brief victory speech early Wednesday morning, Donald Trump devoted only a few words to his specific priorities for policymaking in the next administration. At the top of the agenda was a new investment in infrastructure.
"We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals," the president-elect said after making a few introductory remarks. "We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it."
Infrastructure is a major Democratic priority, but many Republicans remain skeptical that the government needs to spend more in this area. Trump's comments augur a coming conflict with the new Congress, especially Rep. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House.
The Republican from Wisconsin -- a state that Trump carried Tuesday -- had already addressed the country's needs with respect to infrastructure. In a speech at the Economic Club of New York in September, Ryan pointed out that President Obama and Republicans enacted major legislation on highways last year.
That bipartisan agreement allocated $305 billion for highways, mass transit and other projects over five years -- an increase in funding, but far less than what Obama and the Democrats had sought. Republicans said the funding in the legislation was adequate.
"We passed the biggest highway bill, the long-term highway bill, for the first time since the 1990s just a few months ago," Ryan said in September. "That’s already in place at 10 percent above baseline spending on mass transit and highways."
Trump has a complicated plan for new infrastructure spending that involves offering tax credits to private firms. These firms would then borrow money from Wall Street and recoup their investment through tolls and other fees.
Trump's economic advisers argue that the plan would come at no cost to the federal government, because drivers would pay for the new construction through tolls, and the improved infrastructure would stimulate economic activity increasing tax revenues and making up for the initial cost of the tax credits.
Economists and experts on infrastructure, however, are skeptical that Trump's plan would deliver the promised economic benefits, leaving the federal government in the red. It remains to be seen whether Ryan and his colleagues would accept a plan that was likely to increase the deficit and the national debt, or whether they will adhere to their fiscally conservative principles with a new president in office.
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