President Donald Trump called for “a new program of national rebuilding,” in his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.
Trump said he would push forward with his plan to invest $1 trillion to replace the country’s crumbling roads, bridges, and airports. Though his comments were short on details, some Pennsylvanians saw them as reason for optimism.
“I was very encouraged,” said David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association.
Strengthening the country’s and the state’s infrastructure means far more than just paving roads and fixing bridges, he said. The broader view encompasses everything from surface transportation to updating the electrical grid, deploying broadband through communities, and fixing water and sewer systems.
“These are the systems that undergird our civilization and our quality of life. In too many instances, we’ve been coasting on the work that was done by previous generations.”
Trump proposed to jumpstart investment by using public money to attract private dollars. Updating the nation’s infrastructure will require consistent government commitment, said Taylor; uncertainty is expensive.
“Doing short-term funding is actually wasteful. If you have a longer term funding plan, which of course requires more dollars, you get better value out of those dollars because businesses can make investments.”
Those investments might include buying new equipment, or hiring more workers.
Pennsylvania has an opportunity to capitalize on its natural gas industry, said Taylor, but will need an expanding network of pipelines to do it.
“There is a new petrochemical manufacturing industry—it’s a whole industrial sector waiting to be born that will in fact be bigger in its economic impact and economic benefit than the drilling has been," he said. "This is going to be transformative for western Pennsylvania."
Taylor said he isn’t convinced that Harrisburg will support a pro-production, pro-growth policy environment for new businesses, and is hoping the federal government will encourage that approach.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s office said it’s impossible to predict the legislative calendar, but health care and tax reform will likely precede infrastructure spending.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey urged Trump in a statement to make creating jobs—through infrastructure spending—a priority, instead of calling for tax cuts.