Transportation

Trump’s Cabinet picks raise hopes for infrastructure package

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President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks are strengthening hopes for a major infrastructure package next year.

{mosads}It’s not just Trump’s selection for Transportation secretary that is raising expectations for infrastructure spending. The president-elect will also have strong support for transportation from his Commerce and Treasury department picks, both of whom have expressed the need for private financing of infrastructure.

“President-elect Donald Trump understands the urgency of this need and has called for infrastructure investment, and his team has drawn from [our infrastructure blueprint] in outlining his vision for a path forward,” said Jay Timmons, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Manufacturers. “We are encouraged that this will be a top issue for the incoming administration.”

On Tuesday, Trump tapped Elaine Chao to serve as his Transportation secretary. She ran the Labor Department under former President George W. Bush and also served as deputy Transportation secretary in the George H.W. Bush administration.

The next Transportation secretary will have a critical role in helping Trump craft and move an infrastructure package through Congress, which he vowed to submit within his first 100 days in office.

Chao has already received warm praises from both sides of the aisle in Congress, including from her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who will also be a major player in the fate of Trump’s infrastructure proposal.

“I am so proud of Elaine as she continues her accomplished career in public service,” McConnell said in a statement. “I am confident she will do an outstanding job for the nation in this new and important role.”

Chao is experienced in government, well-connected in the transportation world and already has relationships with key members of Congress.

“Her life story is the embodiment of the American dream, and I am grateful my friend Elaine is willing to continue her career of service to make the dreams of our fellow Americans a reality,” said Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chairwoman of the Commerce panel’s surface transportation subcommittee.

Another key pick for Trump’s transportation vision is economic adviser Wilbur Ross, who confirmed Wednesday that he has been selected to the lead the Department of Commerce.

Ross founded a private equity firm and made his wealth by buying and restructuring companies within the manufacturing and steel industries.

The billionaire is the co-architect of Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure proposal, which would offer $137 billion in federal tax credits to private investors who want to back transportation projects.

The blueprint, which Ross and his fellow author claim would be revenue-neutral, assumes the tax breaks would pay for themselves due to revenues being brought in from new job wages and contractor profits.

“Wilbur Ross will bring exceptional real-world business experience to the Department of Commerce as part of an administration that emphasizes job creation and the economy,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a statement.

Trump has repeatedly vowed to rebuild the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, saying it would spur economic growth and create jobs in the process.

“We’re talking about a very large-scale infrastructure bill,” he said in an interview with The New York Times last week. “We’re going to make sure it is spent on infrastructure and roads and highways.”

Also on Wednesday, Steve Mnuchin, who served as the national finance chairman of Trump’s campaign, announced he was chosen to lead the Treasury Department.

Mnuchin has said that the incoming administration’s main priority will be the economy and tax reform but said that infrastructure spending would be another goal.

He added that the administration would look at “a lot of different things” to pay for the package, including public-private partnerships.

Mnuchin, a former partner at Goldman Sachs with close ties to Wall Street, also floated the idea of a national infrastructure bank earlier this month, which would offer low-interest loans and other forms of financial assistance to private investors.

“We need to make sure that our infrastructure is built for the 21st century,” Mnuchin told reporters at Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday.

Tags Deb Fischer Donald Trump John Thune Mitch McConnell

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