President Obama is pressing for infrastructure investment again as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. The president kicked off talks calling for an end to the debt ceiling, the extension of middle-class tax cuts, and $50 billion in infrastructure spending — a proposal that first arose last year as part of his ultimately unsuccessful American Jobs Act.
The Wall Street Journal called the President’s proposals “a particularly expansive version of the White House’s wish list” and “a potential starting point for negotiations.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was predictably opposed to the spending package, but the White House has held firm so far. National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling defended the seriousness of the proposal on a political talk show, Bloomberg News reports. “Those type of measures need to be part of” a deal, he said.
The Christian Science Monitor wrote that the stimulus spending was likely meant to counteract whatever economy-depressing effects might result from the most contentious portion of the deal: the President’s plans to let Bush-era tax breaks expire for those making more than $250,000 annually.
It’s not clear how the funding in the President’s proposal would be divvied up, but when Obama last proposed a $50 billion infrastructure package, it included $9 billion for transit and $4 billion for high-speed rail, as well as funding for the TIGER program. More than half would have gone to roads.
Then as now, it was difficult to tell whether the road funding would fuel sprawl. While the White House said the funding would have gone to existing infrastructure that receives a “D” grade for disrepair from the American Society of Civil Engineers, Obama touted the proposal by visiting the site of a road-widening mega-project, Cincinnati’s Brent Spence Bridge.