Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg announced a plan this morning to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure over 10 years, framing the proposed investment in the nation’s buildings, transportation, and workforce as a way to both create jobs and build more sustainable, resilient communities.
Self-defined as a plan focused on opportunity, equity, and empowerment, Buttigieg’s proposal is a nod to his experience as South Bend mayor, a bid to both repair broken roads and build out 21st century infrastructure such as high-speed internet, as well as an implicit rebuke of President Trump’s failed infrastructure ambitions.
A Buttigieg spokesperson told Curbed the plan would be paid for by a variety of measures, including reforming the capital gains tax, repealing the Trump tax cuts, and raising the estate tax (lowering the exemption, the threshold above which the estate applies) while cracking down on estate tax loopholes. The estate tax changes alone are projected to raise $400 billion over 10 years.
“The current administration has been incapable of keeping its promise to pass major infrastructure legislation, and critical projects around the country are stalled because of it,” a statement announcing the plan reads. “Meanwhile, our roads and bridges crumble, our schools fall into disrepair, water systems poison our children, and our flood protection systems fail as climate change accelerates.”
Buttigieg’s plan has a number of concrete goals, including a focus on jobs. It calls for the creation of six million jobs with strong labor protection (that figure also takes into account the investment from his climate plan), as well as significant workforce investments. A $200 billion fund would be set up to transition workers to a clean economy, and $10 billion will be committed to attract and train skilled infrastructure workers.
The transportation portion of the plan would differ significantly from the Trump administration’s focus on highways and road expansion. Buttigieg would invest $150 billion in public transportation, including $12 billion focused on rural communities, and improve the national rail network. A $3 billion grant program would help fund programs that cross state lines (Gateway Tunnel, perhaps?). In addition, federal transportation projects would be evaluated based on how effectively they connect people to jobs and services, a metric that could help connect housing to opportunity by linking low-income areas with employment centers.
In addition to the pledge to fix broken roads, Buttigieg would also spend $6 billion on electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and make the Highway Trust Fund, the nation’s primary source for transportation funding, solvent.
Buttigieg would also provide additional funding to programs that let local governments design their own solutions. He would double the BUILD program (formerly TIGER), a grant program for local road, transit, rail, and port projects, to $2 billion annually, and his Department of Transportation would evaluate these proposals based on how well they support low-income Americans. Additionally, he would double funding for the Community Development Block Grant program.
The infrastructure plan also includes big promises that answer long-standing issues around inequality and disinvestment, especially those raised by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and other parts of the country. All Americans would have access to clean drinking water, according to the plan, and a proposed $100 billion Lead-Safe Communities Fund would “protect millions of families from lead in paint and water.” The larger investment in clean water and water infrastructure, especially the Drinking Water Assistance Matching Fund, would aim to cut the average water bill of 10 million families by 50 percent.
For rural communities and low-income communities, an $80 billion Internet For All initiative would guarantee high-speed internet for the entire nation. The plan also includes a number of investments that would help urban areas in particular: $80 billion in grants and loans to repair classrooms and facilities, a $3 billion investment to fund programs that lower infrastructure costs for low-income families, and a pledge to use complete urban streets and other “innovative solutions” to mitigate the negative effects of highway expansion projects on Black and Latino neighborhoods.
Finally, Buttigieg also aims to support innovative proposals to bolster the development of future infrastructure, including those aimed at improving resilience and the nation’s response to climate change. A $40 billion Sea Level Defense Fund, and a variety of flood protection and disaster mitigation programs, would bolster the nation’s defense against rising waters and increased flooding. Some of the less-defined initiatives include the formation of a Digital Infrastructure Council, a promise to lead the world in safe and zero-emissions autonomous vehicle technology, and the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Infrastructure, a DARPA-like program to research innovative infrastructure technologies and solutions.