In her speech accepting the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton pledged to seek a job-creation program in her first 100 days in office, including an emphasis on infrastructure investment.
During the July 28 speech at the party's convention in Philadelphia, Clinton said she would "work with both parties to pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II."
She said that would include jobs in manufacturing, clean energy, technology and infrastructure." She said, "If we invest in infrastructure now, we'll not only create jobs today, but lay the foundation for the jobs of the future."
The party, in its platform, endorsed a major boost in federal infrastructure investment, including highways, transit, water, energy and communications projects. The plan also includes a national infrastructure bank and backs reviving the popular Build America Bonds program.
The party’s 2016 platform, which delegates to its convention adopted on July 25, is strong on pro-infrastructure rhetoric but skimpy on specifics.
But David Bauer, American Road & Transportation Builders Association senior vice president for government relations, points out that details of the Democrats’ infrastructure plan can be found in a proposal that Clinton—a former senator and Secretary of State—released late last year.
Clinton’s plan, unveiled on Nov. 30, proposes to lift federal infrastructure spending by $275 billion over five years. That amount includes $250 billion in direct spending and $25 billion to establish an infrastructure bank to assist transportation, energy, water and broadband projects.
To finance the big jump in infrastructure spending, Clinton would use “business tax reform,” according to her campaign’s summary of the plan.
Under the plan, the infrastructure bank’s initial capital could support as much as $225 billion in loans, loan guarantees or other credit assistance.
In addition, as the platform said, she is proposing to bring back and expand the Build America Bonds program, which was launched in the 2009 economic-stimulus law. The program was used heavily by states and localities, which issued $181 billion of the taxable, federally subsidized bonds. But the program expired at the end of 2010.
Brian Turmail, an Associated General Contractors of America spokesman, said via email that, if Clinton were to be elected, AGC would expect her team not to be “as quick as the Obama administration to reject out of hand new ways to finance needed infrastructure improvement.” He recalls the White House’s rejection, in February 2009, of a vehicle-mileage fee.
Turmail added, “The fact that [Clinton] is ready to embrace Build America Bonds is a positive sign, and we will be working with her [or GOP nominee Donald Trump’s team] to make sure they continue to make infrastructure investments a top priority for their campaigns.”
The Democrats’ platform does have positive generalities about public works. It states, “The climate emergency and the need to expand the middle class demand that we make the most ambitious investment in American infrastructure since President Eisenhower created the Interstate highway system.”
Bauer says, “The platform echoed past Democratic platforms in that it certainly talks about the importance of infrastructure investment—all types and all modes of infrastructure investment.”
The reference to Eisenhower and Interstate highways isn’t new, Bauer notes, adding, “It certainly is not an acceptance of the status quo, which is what I think we have seen, basically, in the last several years in surface-transportation bills.”
Converting the infrastructure planks and Clinton’s infrastructure program into law will hinge on congressional action, of course. Indeed, the Obama administration sent similar requests to Congress over the past several years without success.
For example, in early 2016, the administration proposed the GROW AMERICA Act, a $478-billion, six-year surface-transportation bill that included big boosts for highways and transit. Congress did pass a five-year surface transportation measure last December; however, at $305 billion, it fell far short of the Obama version.
For Clinton’s proposal to fare better would require taking not only the White House but also the majority of at least one house of Congress in the November elections.
Forecasters say the Democrats are unlikely to win a majority in the House of Representatives, but they give Democrats a better chance of picking up the net gain of four Senate seats, gaining a small edge in that chamber.
Story updated on Aug. 1 with comments from Clinton's July 28 speech.