Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS
Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS

Columbus — US President Donald Trump has not delivered on his promises to rebuild the US’s crumbling infrastructure. So to remind him, companies that make equipment for construction and other industries are going to the place he’s most likely to hear them: Fox News.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers is airing a 30-second advert starting on Monday on Fox and Friends and other programmes Trump is known to watch. It’s the cornerstone of a Mission Not Accomplished campaign urging Washington to make upgrading public works a priority.

While the White House has said no action on a bill is likely in 2018, the group wants to get the discussion re-started by nudging Trump and congressional leaders to keep a campaign pledge that was central to the president’s economic agenda.

"When you go out there and you campaign and you say you’re going to make a difference by infrastructure investment, we want to hold people accountable," said Dennis Slater, president of the association that represents more than 950 companies including Caterpillar, Volvo Construction Equipment and Link-Belt Cranes. "Let’s get back to what you promised here."

Trump made fixing US roads, bridges, airports and other public works a pillar of his campaign. The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that planned spending on infrastructure from 2016-2025 is $2-trillion short of what is needed. The group says substandard public works cost the economy trillions.

The administration’s plan released in February would provide only $200bn in federal funding over 10 years to spur states, localities and the private sector to spend the balance of $1.5-trillion — with no identified way to pay for it. The plan stalled amid Democratic criticism that Trump’s budget proposal would cut more than the $200bn amount from other transportation programmes.

The president has said action on infrastructure would probably have to wait until after November congressional elections, and he has focused instead on trade, immigration and other issues. Congressional committees have held hearings but haven’t advanced a proposal.

The association said it is holding town halls, using social media and running ads using outlets that Trump and congressional leaders are known to watch and read, including newspapers in specific markets and the TV commercial on Fox that features workers in factory settings.

In the ad, the workers say that while there were many promises in the campaign, they definitely remember one — as a television in the background plays a clip of Trump saying during his election night victory speech, "We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure."

"It hasn’t happened," one worker says in the ad, which ends with the message: "Let’s make infrastructure a priority."

The group plans to spend about $250,000 on the campaign, including the TV ad airing until August 18 and a national poll of registered voters, spokesperson David Ward said. The poll, conducted online on July 13-14 by Morning Consult, showed that while 74% said it was important for Trump to follow through on his promise to invest $1-trillion in infrastructure, 51% were not confident that he would.

Trump has shown leadership by putting forth a plan, and "we look forward to adding more Republicans to Congress to build on the president’s agenda," White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said in an e-mail.

Bipartisan support

Still, it’s disappointing the promised trillion-dollar plan has stalled because infrastructure appeared to be the one thing that could generate bipartisan support and boost spending and jobs, said Jeff Schwarz, group president of aggregate and mining — US, for Astec Industries.

"I thought it would be a win for the Trump administration," Schwarz said. "It’s absolutely needed."

The administration was ready to push for infrastructure spending earlier in 2018, before the school shooting in Florida and other matters took it off the agenda, said Republican representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, chair of the house transportation and infrastructure committee.

Shuster, who is leaving Congress at the end of 2018, released his own proposal on July 23 to spur discussion about fixing infrastructure and shore up the highway trust fund, which pays for road, bridge and transit projects and is projected to become insolvent by 2020.

His plan includes raising the federal petrol tax by 15c a gallon over three years and the diesel tax by 20c, with a goal of replacing the fuel levies by 2028 with a per-mile-travelled fee or other sources.

Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the top Democrat on the committee, has said there is "zero expectation" there will be action this year. If Democrats take control of the House in the November election, they will pursue a measure in the next Congress, he has said.

But Shuster said it is possible a bill could be considered in a lame-duck session after the election. Regardless of who wins, Democrats won’t want to vote on a tax increase next year, and Republicans should deal with the issue now so they’re not blamed in the 2020 presidential campaign, he said.

"I guarantee you they’re going to use this like a sledgehammer against Republicans and against the president," Shuster said.