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US Republicans, Democrats fight over infrastructure plans

[WASHINGTON] US House of Representatives Democrats on Thursday proposed US$1 trillion in new infrastructure spending over 10 years - five times the amount President Donald Trump is expected to offer in his upcoming plan to spur states and cities to seed new public works projects.

Mr Trump will outline his long-awaited plan to use US$200 billion to try to generate at least US$1.5 trillion in infrastructure improvements over 10 years next Monday, a White House official confirmed earlier this week.

But Democrats want far more government spending, including US$100 billion on schools alone as well as billions to expand rural broadband internet service, improve airports, mass transit, roads and ports, boost energy efficiency and improve aging water systems.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Mr Trump's plan was a"disappointment" and spends too little federal money. The plan"shifts the burden onto cities and states," she added.

A leaked document last month disclosed administration plans to reduce federal cost-sharing for projects to no more than 20 per cent of the costs from the traditional 80 per cent.

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The Trump administration has previously rejected Democrats'call to spend US$1 trillion in new government spending as not fiscally responsible.

On Wednesday, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders unveiled a spending deal that includes an additional US$20 billion over two years "to invest in infrastructure, including programs related to rural water and wastewater, clean and safe drinking water, rural broadband, energy, innovative capital projects, and surface transportation."

Specific spending details will be left up to members of Congress when they write legislation later this year.

Mr Trump will meet with state and local officials Monday to tout his plan, which includes US$100 billion in incentives for state and local projects, US$50 billion in grants for rural projects, US$30 billion for government lending programmes and US$20 billion for transformative projects, sources briefed on the matter said.

Mr Trump plans a separate meeting with congressional leaders later next week and is expected to travel to Florida for an infrastructure event next Friday, two officials said.

One big question is how improvements will be paid for. Democrats did not propose a specific funding mechanism on Thursday, and the Trump administration has said it plans to rely on spending cuts to pay for the plan. The White House has not ruled out potential new revenue streams, such as an increase in the gas tax.


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