Business and municipal leaders share concerns about Trump infrastructure plan

Posted:  Monday, February 26, 2018 - 10:00am

BANGOR — At a roundtable discussion in Bangor on Thursday, Feb. 22 hosted by the Maine Small Business Coalition, Eastern Maine municipal officials and small business owners met to discuss their shared concerns about President Trump's proposed plan to fund infrastructure with only very limited federal funding. The plan relies on massive investment in transportation, utilities, and communications from state and local government as well as private businesses. The participants in today's discussion worry that the plan will make lower- and middle-income families, who already pay the highest effective tax rate of all Mainers, pay even more than their fair share of the costs of improvements.

"The president's bill appears to take the current funding process we have and flip it on its head," said Bev Uhlenhake of the Brewer City Council. "That will make the infrastructure improvements we need nearly impossible. Our communities that have the biggest need for improvement will have the least ability to do it. I would urge our senators, Representative Poliquin, and President Trump to take another look at this infrastructure bill. Right now this project is not viable."

According to an analysis of the president's proposal by the New York Times, the federal government would only pay 13% of the estimated $1.5 trillion needed. The plan relies heavily on private investment dollars, which are more likely to go to projects in wealthy or suburban areas where it is easier to reap short-term profits.

Gale White, owner of Lubec Brewing Company, expressed concern about how rural towns could expect to make major improvements to federal roads and bridges:

"My town and my business depend on tourism and trade across the border with Canada. In summer, you see license plates from as far away as California every day. US Route 1 and the international bridge are federal throughways that benefit all Americans. Our town of just over 1,000 can't afford to maintain these roads and bridges. All Americans should. I'm disappointed to hear that Representative Poliquin doesn't appear to agree."

The plan would also greatly weaken long-standing federal health and safety rules like the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. According to the Center for American Progress, the law would make it easier for private corporations to break ground on new construction even if the projects put communities at risk.

"I am concerned with the proposed budget's cuts to the EPA, the National Science Foundation, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Department of Labor," said Laurie Osher who sits on the Orono Town Council and owns Osher Environment Systems. "All of these government agencies are essential to improving our infrastructure while also protecting the environment and workers. The proposal to build infrastructure by using private funding sources leveraged with public funds without the oversight and guidance of these science-based agencies is a recipe for only meeting the goals of the very rich. Public funds should be used for the benefit of the most citizens, not for the benefit of the wealthy few."

This infrastructure plan continues a trend by President Trump and congressional Republicans to propose policies that benefit the super-rich at the expense of lower- and middle-income families. The president's 2017 tax plan, which Maine Republicans Poliquin and Senator Susan Collins supported, gave huge tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations that will likely lead to cuts to health care and other vital services for Maine families.