Obama makes $21 billion infrastructure funding appeal

President Obama is dusting off a $21 billion set of proposals meant to improve the nation’s crumbling roads, rails, bridges and ports. 

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During a trip to Florida on Friday, Obama will also call for a new set of tax incentives to attract capital for infrastructure projects, a senior administration official told reporters.

Yet the $21 billion push that Obama will announce during his visit to PortMiami is largely comprised of items he has proposed before: the creation of a national infrastructure bank and expansion of a popular loan program for major projects. 

And all of the proposals to be unveiled Friday require congressional action, the administration official conceded. He declined to say where the money would come from. He said those details would be included in Obama’s budget proposal, to be released next month.

Obama has repeatedly called for the creation of an infrastructure bank meant to help seed major infrastructure projects through a combination of public and private capital. The president will urge Congress to approve $10 billion for the idea.

He is also calling for a $4 billion investment in support of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). The program, expanded in last year’s transportation bill, is intended to leverage private and nonfederal funding for projects of regional or national significance through loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit.

The TIFIA item is part of Obama’s “Fix it First” initiative, which he announced during his State of the Union address last month.

“I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts,” he told lawmakers gathered for the speech. “I’ve seen you all at the ribbon cuttings.”

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he favored infrastructural improvements, but questioned how they would be funded.

“It's easy to go out there and be Santa Claus and talk about all the things you want to give away, but at some point somebody has to pay the bill,” Boehner said.

Obama is also expected to unveil a set of tax incentives, worth $7 billion, that are meant to support state and municipal bonds for projects. Among them is a measure that would do away with penalties, sometimes totaling up to 35 percent, on foreign investment in U.S. real estate and infrastructure projects.

The measure could pave the way for billions more in outside investment, the administration official said.

“We’d like to attract that capital,” he said.