Gribbin sees limited federal role in infra bill

The Trump advisor and former Macquarie director said the president will look to remove obstacles to private investment, as the administration expects an infra bill next month.

Realigning federal spending to spur state, local and private investment will be the focus of the administration’s long-awaited infrastructure bill, according to DJ Gribbin, a senior advisor to US President Donald Trump.

Gribbin, a former Macquarie director, discussed the administration’s plans Wednesday at an event held by Roll Call, a publication covering Capitol Hill. The federal government contributes less than 15 percent of total infrastructure spending, according to Gribbin.

“Most people are under the impression that we have a much more significant role,” Gribbin said. “While our role is important and we want to be a good partner, state and local governments spend about three times what we do and the private sector spends around three times what we do.”

Gribbin’s comments come as the administration readies for its infrastructure push. Trump now reportedly plans to release a detailed proposal in January with the aim of guiding action by Congress. An infrastructure blueprint released in May proposed leveraging $200 billion of federal spending over 10 years to spur $1 trillion in total infrastructure investment.

Gribbin, a champion of public-private partnerships, joined the administration in March. At the time, engaging the private sector was expected to be a goal of any infrastructure legislation. Trump has since cooled on PPPs, telling Democratic lawmakers that the partnerships do not work.

The infrastructure proposal, Gribbin said, will not necessarily incentivise private sector investment but will look to remove obstacles standing in the way.

“We are trying to not discourage it,” he explained. “We want to give as many options to those that are making the investment decisions as possible, so to the extent that federal law, federal regulations or federal practice distorts that behaviour, we would like to eliminate that.”

Gribbin also highlighted the administration’s efforts at regulatory rollback, as Trump aims to cut the federal approval process for projects down to two years.

“It is very hard to go out and get investors excited about developing a project if they have no idea how long the permitting process is going to take and whether or not you will get a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ at the end of that,” he said, adding, “A quick ‘no’ is fine.”