Local airports, roads could be sold under Trump budget plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s long-awaited infrastructure plan calls for giving government agencies the authority to sell off airports, roads and other federal assets.

The plan could have a major impact on the D.C. area as several local assets are specifically mentioned, including both Reagan National and Dulles International Airport.

Both airports are located in Virginia, and the plan met strong resistance from local Democrats.

“Trump isn’t trying to fix our infrastructure, he’s trying to sell it off,” said Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va.

The president is calling for divesting assets when federal agencies can show the sale would “optimize taxpayer value.”

“That proposal is so dead on arrival it won’t even be considered,” said Del. Elanor Holmes Norton, who is a senior member of the Transportation Infrastructure Committee. “If Trump is looking for funds, he’s not going to get it by selling off our infrastructure.”

Trump’s budget also cited two major roadways in the D.C. region that could fit that bill: the George Washington Memorial and Baltimore-Washington parkways.

Both are maintained by the National Park Service.

“Virginia has serious transportation needs and I strongly support investments to fix them,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. “President Trump’s plan today skimps on real federal investments to deal with those needs and instead relies on local governments and private interests to foot the bill.”

Local Democrats also claim that Trump’s proposed budget would cut funding for Metro by reducing by scaling back funding on the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act from $150 million to $120 million.

“The President’s budget paints a bleak picture for the future of transit in America,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. “Nothing could be more indicative of that vision than shortchanging Metro and allowing for the further decline of the national capital’s transit system.”

Connolly had led a proposal that would have kept Metro’s federal funding at $150 million per year for capital projects, but would have added billions more in federal funding in exchange for a more powerful inspector general and better service.

But it isn’t just local Democrats who are objecting to Trump’s plan.

Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexandar said the plan had “zero chance of becoming law.”

The Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bonneville Power Administration were amont the potential assets that could be sold off, something that Alexander dismissed as “a looney idea.”

Former Democratic President Barack Obama had also broached the idea of selling the Tennessee Valley Authority, an icon of the New Deal. Obama said in his 2014 budget that selling the U.S-owned power company could reduce the federal deficit by at least $25 billion and “help put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path.”

“When President Obama proposed this in 2013, all it did was undermine TVA’s credit, raise interest rates on its debt and threaten to increase electric bills for 9 million Tennessee Valley rate payers,” Alexander said in a statement.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee added that he thinks “selling the TVA is a very unlikely outcome.”

Some in Congress pointed out that Trump’s proposals are unlikely to go very far not only due to political opposition, but because they are rendered obsolete by the two-year budget agreement Trump signed into law to end the government shutdown.

“‘Dead on arrival’ is often what we say, whether they’re Democratic presidents or Republican presidents,” Del. Holmes said. “But I have never seen a budget deader than this one because it was preempted by the two year budget deal that Congress got last week simply nullifying virtually everything in the President’s budget submitted today.”

Even Trump seemed to acknowledge his plan was unlikely to pass while meeting with state and local officials at the White House on Monday.

“If you want it badly, you’re going to get it,” Trump said. “And if you don’t want it, that’s OK with me too.”

WTOP’s Patrick Roth contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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