Report: Trump may struggle to privatize public assets for $1T infrastructure plan

Report: Trump may struggle to privatize public assets for $1T infrastructure plan
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President Trump may struggle to raise enough money for his $1 trillion infrastructure plan if he mostly relies on privatizing public assets, according to a new report.

The American Action Forum (AAF), a conservative think tank, released new research on Thursday that finds the concept of “asset recycling” — which involves selling off a public asset and using that money to pay for other transportation projects — could be difficult to implement.

While Trump has yet to unveil his rebuilding proposal, the plan is expected to rely heavily on incentivizing the private sector to invest in the nation’s infrastructure. The White House in its budget request outlined a broad sketch of the plan and highlighted the idea of asset recycling.

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Under that model, which has been used in Australia, the government can lease or sell “underused” public assets to the private sector and use the proceeds to make infrastructure upgrades elsewhere. The administration could also incentivize state and local governments to do the same thing.

But according to the AAF report, which examined Treasury Department data, there may not be enough assets available for Trump to reach his $1 trillion infrastructure goal. The U.S. government only has $267.6 billion in nondefense fixed assets, plant and equipment (PP&E) that could potentially be recycled.

AAF added that another $700 billion in fixed assets under the defense column would spark controversy if the administration decided to privatize them.

The report also maintains that many of the government’s fixed assets are unlikely to attract private-sector investment. Buildings, structures and facilities — which are the most attractive to private investors — make up slightly less than half of all of the government’s nondefense fixed assets.

The asset recycling idea may be a more realistic option for the states, however, the report noted.
 
“While asset recycling could be a viable strategy for state and local governments to adopt, a federal asset recycling initiative would be difficult to implement as part of the administration’s anticipated infrastructure bill,” the report says.

“Given the immediate need for infrastructure investment, the administration should not rely substantially on asset recycling to achieve $1 trillion in investment, as the measure may not have as large a market as hoped.”