Vice President-elect Mike Pence doubled down Tuesday on President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to upgrade the country’s ailing transportation system with a massive infrastructure package when he takes office.
“I called [Trump] this afternoon to tell him I was coming by,” Pence said at the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting. “In addition to urging me to send along greetings, he said, ‘Tell them we’re going to do an infrastructure bill — and it’s going to be big.'”
Pence added that the package would contain funding to “help communities and states all across America meet the needs that face too many communities and oftentimes stifle growth.”
The comments come as doubts have grown about the size and timing of Trump’s infrastructure bill. The real estate mogul promised to deliver a proposal to Congress within his first 100 days in office, but that timing is expected to slip amid competition with other GOP priorities.
Trump told The New York Times that infrastructure would not be a “core” part of his agenda, while incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told radio host Hugh Hewitt that infrastructure would likely take a backseat to ObamaCare repeal and tax bills.
Although Trump has not yet sketched out his promised infrastructure package in detail, he proposed a blueprint on the campaign trail that would offer $137 billion in federal tax credits to private firms that back transportation projects.
Trump claims such a proposal would unlock $1 trillion in investment over 10 years and would be quicker and cheaper than having the federal government in charge of rebuilding projects.
But that sort of plan is likely to face criticism from Democrats, who worry it would only address a small slice of the country’s transportation needs, and fiscal conservatives, who are wary of massive federal spending on infrastructure.
Pence said Trump was committed to working with local governments on coming up with long-term funding solutions for the issue, which have long remained a challenge in Washington.
“He’s seen some of the country’s biggest urban challenges and seen some of the country’s biggest urban renewals up close and personal, whether it’s children in struggling schools, whether it’s challenges in public safety, whether it’s the dilapidated state of too many of our roads and bridges,” Pence said.
“I can assure you, our president-elect understands that America’s mayors are facing serious challenges you can’t always solve on your own.”