×

CSS Edits

US Rep. Richard Neal says Congress, White House working on infrastructure plan

February 1, 2019
In The News

Although lawmakers have taken little action to address America’s infrastructure spending since the White House unveiled its $1.5 trillion investment plan last year, that is expected to soon change, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal said this week.

The Springfield Democrat, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, told The Republican Thursday that congressional leaders and the Trump administration both seem to be on board with tackling infrastructure spending in the coming months.

“I had breakfast with Secretary (of the Treasury Steven) Mnuchin, I think they’re in,” he said in an interview with the editorial board. “Our leadership on the Democratic side, we are preparing for an infrastructure bill.”

Unlike the White House’s January 2018 infrastructure plan rollout, however, Neal said he intends to make sure that both sides agree on the legislation -- particularly on how to fund such spending -- before jointly announcing the bipartisan package.

“My strategy is, whatever we agree to, we’re going to do it together,” he said. "You can’t have one person standing at the microphone and the others denying what was said in a room. You’ve got to have everybody saying this what we agreed to, this is what we’re going to do. You have to have everyone standing together. That’s the whole idea.

“And, I think (the administration would) like to move on it,” the congressman continued. “On our side, there’s a pent-up desire to do something on infrastructure.”

Neal offered that while congressional Democrats and the administration have yet to decide how to fund infrastructure spending -- an issue which largely halted progress on the president’s initial infrastructure plan -- an agreement will be reached before lawmakers “step to the microphone.”

The congressman said he would like to “get something up by spring, at least the formula," adding that he believes “transportation and American infrastructure is a public responsibility.”

He noted that the Ways and Means Committee will convene a hearing on infrastructure spending in February or March, with testimony expected from the AFL-CIO, Chamber of Commerce, American Trucking Association and other stakeholders.

“If you get the Chamber of Commerce of the United States willing to step up on infrastructure, that tells you something. And the AFL-CIO, they want to build it. (Infrastructure spending) creates greater efficiency, it increases productivity, and I think that whether you’re on the turnpike or you’re on some of our streets now, what you have to go through for delays, it’s pretty telling," he said.

Neal further offered that any infrastructure package should include investments in rail.

Pointing to the success of new North-South rail connecting Western Massachusetts to New York City, the congressman argued that he’d like to see such legislation include funding to improve East-West rail service between Boston and Pittsfield -- a proposal state officials are currently studying.

“I think that if there’s going to be a major infrastructure plan, that our price tag out here ought to be East-West rail," he said, noting that he hopes to convene a meeting this spring between representatives from Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield on the issue.

President Donald Trump, who announced his infrastructure plan in his first State of the Union Address, called on Congress to produce legislation that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new investment -- money which he argued would be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment.

The president added that his proposal would also speed up the permit approval process from 10 years to two years, as well as provide $50 billion for rural infrastructure projects, like ensuring broadband access -- an issue state officials have worked to address in Western Massachusetts.

President Donald Trump, who announced his infrastructure plan in his first State of the Union Address, called on Congress to produce legislation that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new investment -- money which he argued would be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment.

The president added that his proposal would also speed up the permit approval process from 10 years to two years, as well as provide $50 billion for rural infrastructure projects, like ensuring broadband access -- an issue state officials have worked to address in Western Massachusetts.