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Ryan touts plan to leverage private funding for US infra

The proposal will not cost taxpayers an ‘eye-popping’ $1trn, the House speaker reiterated, though the spending target remains unclear.

US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan stressed the importance of leveraging private sector money to improve US infrastructure last week, saying most of President Trump’s planned $1 trillion in infrastructure spending will not come from the federal government.

“You hear this $1 trillion eye-popping number. That’s not $1 trillion coming from federal taxpayers into the transportation system,” Ryan explained to TV host Charlie Rose on Wednesday. “That is the total amount we’re shooting for that also leverages private sector dollars. So there are a lot of projects out there that have some federal financing that [also] leverage more private dollars.”

Ryan would not say how much of the money would come from federal spending; when pushed by Rose, he insisted “I really don’t [know the amount], actually”. He pointed to the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, a program which provides credit assistance for certain transportation projects, as a “great agency” and said the leverage rate for the program is 40 to 1.

“We want to leverage as much private sector dollars as possible to maximise the fixing of our infrastructure,” Ryan said. “That’s airports. That’s pipelines. That’s roads. That’s bridges. That’s harbours. That’s canals.”

During his campaign, Trump promised to mobilise between $500 billion and $1 trillion to upgrade US infrastructure, with a plan released just before the election calling for tax credits to incentivise private investment. Last week, Vice-President Mike Pence told a group of US mayors that an infrastructure bill from the administration is “going to be big”.

Ryan has said an infrastructure plan will be on the agenda for Trump’s first 200 days in office.