President Donald Trump announced the first part of his infrastructure plan on Monday, which would privatize the air control system. This week he plans to roll out the rest of his infrastructure agenda, which he said would invest $1 trillion in infrastructure.
The administration has released very few details about how it plans to invest in waterways and roads, and all of Trump’s policy statements have been removed from his campaign website. But if his air traffic control announcement is any indication of where the rest of his infrastructure plan is headed, it will be a massive giveaway to corporations and a departure from past infrastructure programs.
President Donald Trump hailed the plan on Monday and claimed it would be a “huge economic boost” for the country, without explaining how that would be the case. Under his plan, air traffic control would be turned over to a non-profit entity that would initially rely on loans.
“Under this new plan, the Federal Aviation Administration will focus firmly on what it does best: safety,” said Trump. “A separate nonprofit entity would be in charge of route to efficiency, timely service and a long-awaited reduction in delays.”
Trump then signed a list of air traffic control principles, in a sort of pantomime of a bill signing.
Getting to a real-life bill signing could be difficult, as some republican lawmakers are already dissenting from the proposal. Lawmakers from states that rely on general aviation airports are concerned that people in rural districts would be forced to pay more under the new system, because it would give commercial airlines greater influence. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) said they oppose the move to privatize air traffic control.
“The question becomes if it’s privatized and made up of a board of people who are generally associated with the airlines, who is there to prevent an increase in cost to general aviation?” Moran told McClatchy in March.
Senate Democrats argue that direct federal spending — including an investment in the country’s broadband network — is the best way to improve infrastructure. Their 10-year plan, unveiled in January, would allocate $210 billion for roads and bridges, $100 billion for updates to the electrical grid, $180 billion for expanded rail and bus lines, and $200 billion for “vital infrastructure projects.”
Trump’s infrastructure plan comes after he proposed a series of cuts to government agencies and programs that are relevant to the country’s infrastructure. His budget proposed reducing funding for the Department of Transportation by about 12 percent and for the Army Corps of Engineers by more than 16 percent. His budget would also programs like the Community Development Block Grant, which helps communities fill potholes and build affordable housing.