RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Donald Trump unveiled his long awaited $1.5 trillion plan to repair and rebuild the nation's roads and bridges yesterday.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This morning, I submitted legislative principles to Congress that will spur the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history.
MARTIN: Here's the thing, though - only $200 billion of that would be federal funding spread over 10 years, meaning much of the financial burden for this is going to fall to lower levels of government and private investors.
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TRUMP: It returns power to the state and local governments who know best what their people need. Washington will no longer be a roadblock to progress. Washington will now be your partner. We'll be your partner.
MARTIN: Yesterday, the president held a meeting with state and local officials from across the country to talk about the infrastructure plan, among them Jeff Longwell. He's a Republican and the mayor of Wichita, Kan. He joins us now.
Mayor Longwell, thanks so much for being with us.
JEFF LONGWELL: Good to be with you.
MARTIN: So you've got an eye on the ground, that kind of...
MARTIN: ...Local perspective - what do you think of the president's plans to shift a lot of the financial responsibility for infrastructure from the federal government to municipal and state governments?
LONGWELL: So the reality is, in Wichita, we've been building a highway that runs through the middle of town for the last 15 years and have spent $1 billion of our own local money with no federal help. So any additional federal help is welcome.
MARTIN: So when you think about the project that you just mentioned there in Wichita, you're saying that your own taxpayers have been having to pay, presumably, the bulk of this particular repair.
MARTIN: But were they hoping for a little help from the federal government, from a president who said that he personally wanted to take responsibility for fixing the country's infrastructure?
LONGWELL: And the reality is I don't think $200 billion is anything to take too lightly. We believe that that extra help can enable us to expedite some projects that we have currently waiting to put into the system. Yet the other component of this that we welcome is the regulatory environment, seeing if we cannot tweak some things that would enable us to get projects off the shelf quicker which, in many cases, can help us save some costs.
MARTIN: What did the other folks in that meeting think, other mayors who may not have the kind of tax base that you have for their own infrastructure projects?
LONGWELL: Well, I think everyone's eager to see exactly what the plan will do for each individual city, rural areas. And I think many of them are in the similar boat. I mean, the fact is - you know, in Kansas of course we have a - the Kansas Department of Transportation that's been funneling dollars to a wide variety of projects. And the federal government's been sending money through the MPOs for several years, but it's not been a lot of money. We typically - our entire region - it's about a 10-county region - gets about $11 million a year to spread amongst projects.
So the feeling was, yeah, we'll take this and certainly see if we can't help us build out new infrastructure because infrastructure is so critical to economic development. And ultimately, that's what we would all like to see improved.
MARTIN: All right. Jeff Longwell - he is the mayor of the city of Wichita, Kan. We were talking about the president's infrastructure proposal.
Mayor Longwell, thanks so much for your time this morning. We appreciate it.
LONGWELL: My pleasure.
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