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. Some Pennsylvanians saw the president's proposals — though short on details — 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 updating the electrical grid to 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 jump-start investment by using public money to attract private dollars. Updating the nation’s infrastructure will require consistent government commitment, said Taylor.
“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 referring to the fracking industry. "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 an approval of infrastructure spending.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in a statement urged Trump to make creating jobs through infrastructure spending — instead of tax cuts — a priority.