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Infrastructure in the News 12.2.16

BAF IN THE NEWS

 

The Bond Buyer: Infrastructure Policy Seen Shifting to Private Investments (full article follows Morning Transportation)

(Marcia Hale is interviewed – SKDK is reaching out to correct the misspelling of her name)

http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/washington-infrastructure/infrastructure-policy-seen-shifting-to-private-investments-1119369-1.html

President-elect Donald Trump's choice of Elaine Chao as his transportation secretary signals to industry professionals that federal infrastructure policy over the next four years will focus on how to bring more private equity into the financial mix for large projects.

 

National News

 

Associated Press: US construction spending up 0.5 percent in October

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/us-construction-spending-up-05-percent-in-october/2016/12/01/d9d5257c-b7d7-11e6-939c-91749443c5e5_story.html?utm_term=.e4e9a1c59744

U.S. builders boosted spending on construction projects by a modest amount in October, helped by big gains in spending on home construction and the biggest increase in government projects in 10 months.

 

Vice: It's Time to Start Thinking of Amazon as a Transportation Company

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/its-time-to-start-thinking-of-amazon-as-a-transportation-company

Amazon’s newest toy is here, just in time for the holidays. Nope, it’s not a drone. It’s not taking flight at all, although it’s in the cargo business. It’s a 45-foot-long shipping container that hauls a million gigabytes of your precious data.

 

Washington Post Interactive: Six maps that show the anatomy of America’s vast infrastructure

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/maps-of-american-infrastrucure/

President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to invest about $550 billion in new infrastructure projects across the country was a central theme in his campaign. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it,” Trump said. Details are still murky, but it appears that the plan will rely on tax credits to spur private investment.

 

Washington Post: Progressive think tank: Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan ‘shovels money at wealthy investors’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/report-trumps-1-trillion-infrastructure-plan-shovels-money-at-wealthy-investors/2016/12/01/ed0c3c16-b7dc-11e6-b8df-600bd9d38a02_story.html?utm_term=.cb0e155aa545

President-elect Donald Trump’s ambitious plan to raise $1 trillion for infrastructure is a boondoggle that would line the pockets of wealthy investors while not meeting the need for infrastructure repair or improvement in much of the country, according to an analysis released Thursday by a progressive think tank.

 

Wall Street Journal: Infrastructure Stocks Overheated on Trump’s Trillion-Dollar Plan (full article follows Morning Transportation)

http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2016/12/01/infrastructure-stocks-overheated-on-trumps-trillion-dollar-plan/

President-elect Donald Trump‘s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan has sent shares of building and construction stocks such as Vulcan Materials and Aecom up significantly over the past few weeks. But the market may be overestimating just how big an impact the plan is likely to have.

 

Fortune (Video): What Donald Trump’s Cabinet Picks Mean for Infrastructure

http://fortune.com/video/2016/12/01/donald-trump-infrastructure/

The Republican party has differing opinions on the subject.

 

State News

 

Associated Press: Feds: Fatal Wreck Shows Need for Seat Belts on School Buses

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/12/01/us/ap-us-school-bus-safety-.html?_r=0

The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday re-emphasized the agency's call for seat belts on school buses in the aftermath of a crash in Chattanooga that killed six students.

 

Washington Post: NTSB: Metro knew of potentially dangerous track conditions more than a year before July derailment

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/ntsb-metro-knew-of-potentially-dangerous-track-conditions-more-than-a-year-before-july-derailment/2016/12/01/5d57c13a-b7ff-11e6-b8df-600bd9d38a02_story.html?utm_term=.eb875254aad4

Metro knew of track flaws more than a year before a July derailment, and the agency’s track inspectors may have contributed to the crash by falsifying inspection reports month after month, according to documents released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

 

Washington Post Editorial: What Metro needs to get ‘back to good’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-metro-needs-to-get-back-to-good/2016/12/01/0f12c4e0-b749-11e6-959c-172c82123976_story.html?utm_term=.4f884539cc8b

METRO, THE nation’s second-busiest transit system, is getting a lot less busy. Ridership on the subway, whose safety and reliability record is execrable, is 15 percent below this year’s forecast, and a third of passengers are dissatisfied with rail service. That may sound bad but less than catastrophic — until one considers that the system had already lost more than 16 percent of weekday rail riders since the daily peak of 750,000 in 2009.

 

Washington Post: Metro board committee advances plan for late-night service cuts

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/metro-board-committee-advances-plan-for-late-night-service-cuts/2016/12/01/553edd66-b800-11e6-b8df-600bd9d38a02_story.html?utm_term=.90ce60646676

A conflicted Metro board committee voted Thursday to advance a proposal that would shorten service hours for two years — a controversial decision that Jack Evans, the Metro board’s chairman, said would almost certainly get a veto from the District.

 

Associated Press: Engineer in NYC train derailment that killed 4 sues railroad

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/engineer-in-nyc-train-derailment-that-killed-4-sues-railroad/2016/12/01/ca85e0fc-b7ff-11e6-939c-91749443c5e5_story.html?utm_term=.ad55f71b5ce4

An engineer who fell asleep at the controls of a Metro-North train and caused a derailment that killed four people in New York City sued the railroad Thursday, saying its negligence and carelessness led to the accident.

 

WBUR: What Trump's Transportation Pick Could Mean For Mass.

http://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2016/12/01/elaine-chao

On Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump nominated Elaine Chao as secretary of transportation. Chao, who served as the secretary of labor under George W. Bush and is also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is an experienced Washington insider. As transportation secretary, she will be tasked with taking on an aging infrastructure that Trump promised to rebuild during his campaign.

 

Tampa Bay Times: School bus transportation could end for nearly 7,500 Hillsborough students next year

http://web.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/school-bus-transportation-could-end-for-nearly-6700-hillsborough-students/2304735

Nearly 7,500 students in Hillsborough County's middle and high schools could lose their bus rides in the next school year as the district continues to cut spending.

Politico Morning Transportation - By Brianna Gurciullo | 12/02/2016 05:40 AM EDT

With help from Jennifer Scholtes, Lauren Gardner, Tanya Snyder, Kathryn A. Wolfe and Anthony Adragna

THEY KNEW (FOR OVER A YEAR): WMATA employees were aware of deteriorating rail ties around the site of a summer train derailment for over a year before the accident happened, an investigation by NTSB has revealed. As The Washington Post first reported, transcripts of interviews indicate that Metro track inspectors fabricated reports for months and supervisors failed to act on concerns raised by inspectors. In an accident report released Thursday, NTSB also referred to its past recommendation that FRA, not FTA, oversee WMATA.

What great timing: Two House Oversight subcommittees will hold a joint hearing this morning on WMATA, SafeTrack and FTA's oversight of the transit system. WMATA's general manager plans to say that Metro is on track in taking care of safety recommendations from the FTA and NTSB. According to his prepared testimony , Paul Wiedefeld will also tell lawmakers that Metro is going to reduce its dependence on federal funding for "preventive maintenance." WMATA's board decided that $95 million in such expenses could be paid for using FTA grants in fiscal 2017, a $64 million increase. The proposed budget for fiscal 2018 calls for the use of $60 million.

Donezo: "I intend for FY18 to be the last year that the use of FTA grant funds for preventive maintenance would exceed historical practice and, by FY2019, only the traditional $31 million of grant funding would be used for this purpose," Wiedefeld plans to say, adding that Metro has heard the concerns voiced by the House Appropriations Committee on the matter and has taken them "very seriously."

HAPPY FRIDAY: Thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Please send tips, feedback and, of course, song lyrics to bgurciullo@politico.com or @brigurciullo.

"I took the redeye through the Tallahassee swamplands on silverstream today. Raymond said the alligators smile with teeth as big as highway traffic cones." (h/t Bonnie Fan at Chicago Transit Authority)

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TRUMP ON INFRASTRUCTURE: 'WE'RE GOING TO DO IT OURSELVES': On the first stop of his "Thank You Tour," in Cincinnati on Thursday night, President-elect Donald Trump promised that his infrastructure plan would follow "two simple rules": "Buy American and hire American. We're going to do it ourselves."

"We will build new roads, tunnels, bridges, railways, airports, schools and hospitals, including major projects in the inner cities," he said, later adding: "We will deepen our harbors and new lanes of commerce across the nation. We have harbors that ships can't even go into."

TALKING UP CHAO: GOP lawmakers who want to say something nice about Trump's pick to run DOT now have a primer on what makes Elaine Chao so special. As POLITICO's Seung Min Kim reports, Trump's team is distributing a detailed document with some background on the president-elect's Cabinet picks.

Accolades abound: "Secretary Chao is one of the most successful Cabinet officials in American history," the guidance begins. And for the last word: "She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell."

Pie in the sky: The document is filled with zinger phrases about how Chao will implement a "visionary plan," "transform" the nation's infrastructure and create a "golden opportunity" for economic growth.

Sticking with it: While the talking points don't provide any more detail on Trump's plan for paying for all this infrastructure investment, they do reiterate the ideas he laid out during his campaign, saying the plan will be "deficit neutral" and will create "thousands of new jobs" that will "generate new tax revenue."

DROP THE MICA: Rep. John Mica is "pretty much certain" his next act will be in the private sector. The former House Transportation chairman told MT on Thursday that he "probably" wouldn't accept a different position in the Trump administration after he was passed over for Transportation secretary. Mica said he had a good experience with Trump's transition team. "But right now my inclination is, you know, I just got off the merry-go-round and I don't want to get back on there," he said. The Florida Republican added that Elaine Chao was the "most qualified" candidate for the job. "She was in the category of John Mica," he said, laughing.

WR-DA CLOSEST YET: Sen. Jim Inhofe, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Thursday that a deal had been reached on the Water Resources Development Act and that the text of the bill would be posted imminently. As Pro Energy's Annie Snider reports , Inhofe indicated that the agreement is expected to fund $170 million worth of aid for Flint, Mich., and other communities by winding down a DOE loan program for advanced vehicle manufacturing. A late sticking point, sources told our friends at Morning Energy, is a fight over whether the Senate bill's "Buy America" requirements for Drinking Water State Revolving Fund dollars remain in the final package. Sen. Sherrod Brown is making a late push to keep that provision.

BRADY: INFRASTRUCTURE WILL BE A PART OF TAX REFORM TALKS: The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee says members of Congress are going to keep hashing out the idea of using some money raised through tax reform to finance infrastructure projects. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said Thursday during a speech at The Heritage Foundation that "we know we'll be having these discussions going forward," Pro Tax's Brian Faler reports . But Brady reiterated that he'd rather use all of the money to finance lower tax rates. He said the GOP hopes to unveil a tax plan in "early 2017," but "we don't know yet where this fits in the first 100 days" of Trump's administration.

THUNE TO FAA: SO HOW'S NEXTGEN GOING? Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune is asking the FAA for a detailed update on how much headway the agency is making on NextGen programs. As our Jen Scholtes reports for Pros, Thune sent a dozen questions to the agency Thursday and wants answers by Dec. 15. He's requested that FAA Administrator Michael Huerta estimate when each program will wrap up and how soon the government can expect to see a positive return on its investment.

"If key aspects of full NextGen implementation will not emerge for another decade or more, it is difficult to see how airlines, taxpayers, or the flying public will ever break even, much less realize the benefits to the U.S. economy that NextGen has promised," Thune writes.

CR UPDATE: It's looking pretty certain that Republicans will put forward a continuing resolution to fund the government through April, the Pro Budget and Appropriations Brief reports. "That's a month later than House Republicans initially envisioned, and comes after Senate Republicans asked for more time to finish confirming President-elect Donald Trump's lengthy list of nominations," according to the Brief. "The text of the stopgap spending bill could come as early as Monday, setting up votes in the House and Senate toward the end of the week." Right down to the wire, as usual.

READY TO RUMBLE: The European Commission has set in motion an arbitration case against the United States for not giving Norwegian Air International the right to fly to Boston and New York from Ireland. "The Commission acted in good faith during this process and still invites the U.S. authorities to comply with the EU-U.S. Air Transport Agreement in order to reach an amicable solution," commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen told POLITICO Europe's Joshua Posaner on Thursday. NAI is a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle. DOT told MT that it had no comment "at this time." Josh wrote about Norwegian Air's two-year wait for U.S. approval earlier this year.

PRINCESS CRUISE LINES GETS ROYAL FINE: The Justice Department hit Princess Cruise Lines with a historic $40 million criminal penalty Thursday for illegally dumping oil-contaminated sludge into the ocean, our Lauren Gardner reports. The deal includes guilty pleas on seven counts related to the decade-long pollution spree, which prosecutors said was prolonged through intimidation by senior engineers.

REID PAYS TRIBUTE TO RETIRING MIKULSKI: On the Senate floor Thursday, Minority Leader Harry Reid paid tribute to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who's retiring. At one point, Reid praised Mikulski for fighting against a proposal to build a highway through the middle of Baltimore in the 1960s, when she was a social worker. The highway "would have razed entire neighborhoods — African-American neighborhoods and especially immigrant neighborhoods," Reid said, but Mikulski organized rallies to oppose the plan. "These people got to keep their homes, and today there is no superhighway towering over the center of Baltimore," Reid said. "People remember Barbara Mikulski for that. Barbara's fight against the highway made her a hero in Baltimore."

GONE WEST: Ken Montoya, the irrepressible legislative director for Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), passed away earlier this week after a short battle with cancer. In a statement, Kirkpatrick said: "We are absolutely heartbroken. Ken was one of a kind — a wonderful person, an amazing friend, a loyal staffer. He truly loved the legislative process. And we loved having him as part of our work family every single day. It's hard to imagine Capitol Hill without Ken Montoya — he left an accomplished legacy here and touched a lot of lives. We will miss him terribly. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time." Montoya, well-known and liked in the transportation community, also had a stint doing government affairs for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

"He was an integral part of NATCA's legislative efforts for a decade during an important time in our union's growth," NATCA President Paul Rinaldi told MT. "We fondly remember him for not only the great work he did but also for his upbeat personality. He was someone you always enjoyed being around."

"He took us to a new level of political activity and helped us raise our level of activism within the union," added Trish Gilbert, NATCA's executive vice president. "He was such a happy person who was liked by everyone."

DRONE GROUP WRITES TO TRUMP: A group representing the commercial drone industry is warning the Trump administration that the United States "could be at risk of losing" the global race to develop and roll out drones and other robotics tech. "If current regulations and the slow pace of drone flight waiver approvals does not allow for additional safe commercial applications to operate legally, the U.S. will be at risk of losing the drone platform war — which will lead to drone companies that are software-focused having to rely on imported hardware platforms controlled by a foreign company," the Commercial Drone Alliance writes in a letter to Trump, provided exclusively to POLITICO. "Not only does this pose a threat to our economic future, but it can also pose a security concern."

We've got names for you: The group adds that it is pushing the administration to install experts from the commercial drone world at its agencies — and it will soon send the transition team some names to consider. "The individuals on this list are eminently qualified for senior leadership positions within the FAA, the Department of Transportation, and the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy," the alliance says. "OSTP plays a particularly important role as the agency that carries the critical innovation banner across the federal government — including for commercial drones."

FINAL BOARDING CALL: Attendees of Airlines for America's holiday reception on the Hill this week included: Brad Tilden (Alaska Airlines); Doug Parker (American Airlines); William Flynn (Atlas Air); David Bronczek (FedEx); Mark Dunkerley (Hawaiian Airlines); Robin Hayes (JetBlue Airways); Gary Kelly (Southwest Airlines); Sens. Bill Nelson and Roger Wicker; Sen.-elect Todd Young; Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Pat Tiberi, Dave Joyce, Steve Scalise, Garret Graves, Jeff Denham, Rodney Davis, Frank LoBiondo and Steny Hoyer; Scott Mason (President-elect Donald Trump); Downey Magallanes (Office of Sen. Roy Blunt); Heideh Shahmoradi (Senate Appropriations Committee); Derrick Dockery (Office of Speaker Paul Ryan); and Kim Lipsky (Office of Sen. Bill Nelson). (h/t POLITICO Influence)

THE AUTOBAHN:

— "Engineer in NYC train derailment that killed 4 sues railroad." The Associated Press.

— "Apple said to fly drones to improve maps data and catch Google." Bloomberg.

— "Maersk Line to buy German shipping line Hamburg Süd in $4 billion deal." The Wall Street Journal.

— "Baltimore Amtrak tunnel replacement would cost $4 billion." The Associated Press.

— "Metro board committee advances plan for late-night service cuts." The Washington Post.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 7 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 301 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,401 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

8 a.m. — The InfraGard National Electromagnetic Pulse Special Interest Group holds a summit to "examine current and emerging best practices in resilience needed to protect ourselves from high-impact threats to critical infrastructure." Whittemore House. 1526 New Hampshire Ave. NW. Main Room.

9 a.m. — Michael McRaith, the director of the Treasury Department's Federal Insurance Office, delivers keynote remarks"assessing the affordability of mandatory auto insurance" at the Consumer Federation of America's Financial Services Conference. Embassy Suites Washington D.C. - Convention Center. 900 10th St. NW.

9 a.m. — Two House Oversight subcommittees hold a hearing on WMATA. NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart and WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld testify, among others. 2154 Rayburn.

9 a.m. — The Atlantic Council holds a discussion called "Drones in the Energy Sector: Soaring into the Future?" 1030 15th St. NW. 12th Floor.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at transpocalendar@politicopro.com.-

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/12/oversight-hearing-today-on-wmata-020382

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Trump team urges GOP to play up Sessions' 'strong civil rights record' Back

By Seung Min Kim | 12/01/2016 11:19 AM EDT

President-elect Donald Trump's team is advising Senate Republicans to promote Jeff Sessions' deep familiarity with the Justice Department, his "strong civil rights record" and that he is "known for his deep respect and adherence to the rule of law" as senators talk about the his nomination as attorney general.

For Steven Mnuchin, the Trump team wants senators to emphasize that the former Goldman Sachs executive is a "world-class financier" whose history in the financial sector "make him the ideal candidate" to be Trump's pick to lead the Treasury Department. And Tom Price, whom Trump intends to nominate for Health and Human Services secretary, is "a renowned physician" who "has earned a reputation for being a tireless problem solver."

Those are just a sample of talking points sent by Trump's transition team — and obtained by POLITICO — to the Senate GOP Conference this week to promote the incoming president's choices for his administration. Trump has steadily rolled out his picks, and they've so far met with high praise from Republicans in the Senate, where any Cabinet nominee needs just 51 votes to be confirmed.

But Senate Democrats are guaranteed to put up a fight for at least some of the nominees, and the incoming administration is giving Republicans some guidance on how to push back.

For example, opponents of Sessions' nomination have jumped on his failed bid in 1986 to be confirmed as a federal judge due to allegations that he used racist comments as a prosecutor. But the transition wants senators to point out that the Alabama senator has led desegregation lawsuits in his home state, voted to extend the Civil Rights Act and he voted to to confirm former Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African-American to lead the Justice Department.

"Even individuals who voted against Sen. Sessions' confirmation 30 years ago ultimately regretted it," the talking points added. "The late Senator Arlen Specter said, 'My vote against candidate Sessions for the federal court was a mistake because I have since found that Sen. Sessions is egalitarian.'"

The guidance includes talking points for Sessions; Mnuchin; Price; Wilbur Ross and Todd Ricketts (secretary and deputy secretary of commerce, respectively); Elaine Chao (transportation secretary); Seema Verma (administrator of the Center for Medicare &Medicaid Services); Betsy DeVos (education secretary); Nikki Haley (ambassador to the United Nations); and Mike Pompeo (director of the Central Intelligence Agency).

Here are the talking points for all announced Trump Cabinet picks so far:

Back

Mica 'pretty much certain' he's heading for the private sector Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 12/01/2016 06:45 PM EDT

Rep. John Mica said he'll likely go into the private sector for his next act, post-Congress.

Mica said he "probably" wouldn't take a different job in the Trump administration if he was asked, having been passed over for Transportation secretary.

"Right now, I'm leaning toward staying in the private sector. I could do additional opportunities, which I'm about to say I regret right now," Mica said today. "I haven't finalized it, but I'm pretty much certain that I'm going to stay in the private sector, although I can't tell you how gracious and accommodating [the transition team was]. They just really treated me very well in the process. I was humbled by it. But right now my inclination is, you know, I just got off the merry-go-round and I don't want to get back on there."

The former House Transportation Committee chairman said he spoke with Vice President-elect Mike Pence but never with Trump himself.

Mica called Elaine Chao an "awesome choice" and "the most qualified person" of those the Trump team was considering

"She was in the category of John Mica," Mica said, laughing. He added that he wasn't disappointed that Trump picked Chao over him.

"I had heard of an array of people, but she is by far the best choice and I would say she'll do an excellent job. She was a DOT deputy and she's been a Labor secretary, so she can hit the ground running, so I think it's an excellent, excellent choice. Again, I was honored to even have my name even thought of in the process."

Back

Inhofe: House, Senate have reached WRDA deal Back

By Annie Snider | 12/01/2016 02:14 PM EDT

House and Senate negotiators have reached a deal on a major water resources package, Sen. Jim Inhofe said this afternoon.

Inhofe said he expected the agreement on a final Water Resources Development Act would be posted imminently, and would fund $170 million worth of aid to Flint, Mich., and other communities by winding down a DOE loan program for advanced vehicle manufacturing — the offset used in the Senate's measure.

But lobbyists following the negotiations expect the final deal will hew closer to the House-passed measure, without most of Senate measure's reforms to clean water and safe drinking water programs.

Back

Brady says tax reform will come with 'significant trade-offs' Back

By Brian Faler | 12/01/2016 11:33 AM EDT

The House's top tax writer today acknowledged that tax reform would come with "significant trade-offs" but urged those concerned about losing their favorite provisions to focus on the broader benefits of a revamped code.

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) conceded that Republican plans to cut things like a long-standing interest writeoff for businesses, a deduction for state and local taxes, and a break for those who adopt children are controversial.

But hanging onto provisions like those will force Republicans to retreat from their goals of much lower rates and a radically simplified code, said Brady.

Lawmakers could "add anything back to this you want — we can add single provisions, we can add dozens of provisions — hundreds of provisions," he said Thursday in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. But "the only way to lower rates for everybody is to eliminate the hundreds of special tax provisions for some."

"While some would like to have fights over individual provisions in the tax code, the debate that we're looking for in America is whether Americans want something this fair and this simple and this understandable and we willing to make the trade-offs to get there, or want to stick with the status quo," said Brady.

Lawmakers will continue to discuss whether to siphon off some of the money raised through reform to pay for infrastructure projects — "we know we'll be having these discussions going forward" — though Brady made clear he prefers to use all of the revenue to instead finance lower rates.

He downplayed House Republicans' differences with President-elect Donald Trump over how to rewrite the code, calling them "more than manageable."

Republicans may "ultimately" be forced to use a go-it-alone strategy of muscling tax reform through the Senate, known as reconciliation, he said, but added Republicans want Democrats' input.

"We're going to offer a wide-open opportunity for our Democrats to bring their best ideas forward and engage on tax reform" but "if they'll take the opportunity, I don't know yet, but we're going to open that door in a major way."

"While reconciliation may ultimately be the only option, we're going to start differently."

Republicans also don't know yet where tax-reform will fit in next year's agenda, said Brady.

"It's difficult to know now," he said, since the incoming administration needs more time to "fill their team out, think about their first 100 days" and "get their feet on the ground."

"The timetable for us is to continue to listen to this feedback through the end of the year — our tax team is writing key provisions of this as we speak," he said.

Republicans want to introduce their plan in "early 2017," but "we don't know yet where this fits in the first 100 days of governing, but where it fits, we're going to be ready to deliver pro-growth tax reform."

Back

Thune requests FAA turn over updated NextGen projections Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 12/01/2016 04:19 PM EDT

Sen. John Thune wants a progress report on FAA's lagging NextGen programs, giving the agency two weeks to answer a dozen detailed questions about how it intends to do right by concerned federal watchdogs.

The Senate Commerce chairman sent a letter today asking FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to detail the progress his agency has made in implementing NextGen programs and to turn over a timeline for expected completion, as well as a guess at when the programs will deliver a positive return on investment.

"If key aspects of full NextGen implementation will not emerge for another decade or more, it is difficult to see how airlines, taxpayers, or the flying public will ever break even, much less realize the benefits to the U.S. economy that NextGen has promised," Thune writes. "A better accounting of when stakeholders will reap the benefits of investments in NextGen will be important to seeing this ambitious initiative succeed."

Thune cites a DOT inspector general report released last month that concluded the six most pivotal NextGen programs still don't have final price tags or ultimate deadlines, and that "most of the transformational programs will not transform how air traffic is managed."

Thune wants to know how much the FAA expects to spend modifying its new ERAM computer system, whether the agency has heeded the IG's recommendation to improve outreach, and how the agency plans to comply with congressional mandates on cybersecurity threats among others.

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European Commission triggers Norwegian Air arbitration case against U.S. Back

By Joshua Posaner | 12/01/2016 09:49 AM EDT

The European Commission today began arbitration proceedings against U.S. authorities for failing to grant an Ireland-based subsidiary of Norwegian Air flying rights after two years of wrangling.

"The Commission works to ensure that EU-level aviation agreements are fully respected and that EU companies are not subject to unfair treatment," Commission spokesperson Anna-Kaisa Itkonen said in confirming the arbitration, to take place under the EU-U.S. Air Transport Agreement.

The dispute concerns the request of Norwegian Air International (NAI) to fly to Boston and New York from Cork, in Ireland. Itkonen said the request was first made for NAI to start transatlantic flights in 2013.

Giorgio Sacerdoti, a professor of law at Bocconi University in Milan, has been mooted as the EU's arbitrator in the case. The U.S. now has 20 days to designate its own arbitrator under the terms of the 2007 open skies agreement.

"The Commission informed the U.S. authorities of this position already in November 2014 and regrets that no suitable solution could be found despite intensive discussions at all levels," Itkonen said. "The Commission acted in good faith during this process and still invites the U.S. authorities to comply with the EU-U.S. Air Transport Agreement in order to reach an amicable solution."

In a July letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said arbitration was on the table "despite the patience and the goodwill that the EU has shown."

This first appeared on POLITICO.EU on Dec. 1, 2016.

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DOJ slaps cruise line with record fine on pollution charges Back

By Lauren Gardner | 12/01/2016 10:35 AM EDT

Princess Cruise Lines will pay a record criminal penalty after pleading guilty to seven felonies tied to the company's pollution practices at sea, the Justice Department announced today.

Princess will fork over $40 million under the plea deal, which covers charges pertaining to illegal dumping of oil-contaminated waste from one of its ships.

Crewmembers on that ship had been illegally dumping polluted discharges since 2005, DOJ said. The federal government's investigation began after a whistleblower who had quit his job at Princess came forward with information about a "magic pipe" that had been used that year to discard oily waste off the coast of England.

"The pollution in this case was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship. It reflects very poorly on Princess's culture and management," Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden said in a statement. "This is a company that knew better and should have done better."

A quarter of the penalty total — if approved by the court — will go toward community service projects that help the marine environment, DOJ said.

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Wall Street Journal: Infrastructure Stocks Overheated on Trump’s Trillion-Dollar Plan

President-elect Donald Trump‘s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan has sent shares of building and construction stocks such as Vulcan Materials and Aecom up significantly over the past few weeks. But the market may be overestimating just how big an impact the plan is likely to have.

 

Heard on the Street’s Spencer Jakab joins Miriam Gottfried and Ken Brown to talk about the history of public-private partnerships and why they generally haven’t worked out well. Toll roads and gas taxes are politically unpopular. Meanwhile, private companies often aren’t willing to invest in some of the most-needed infrastructure improvements.

 

Then, Paul Davies comes on the line from London to discuss the drama unfolding at Italy’s Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena and why it has global investors sitting on the edges of their seats. How do the challenges of Italy’s banking sector intersect with Sunday’s referendum on constitutional reform?

 

To listen, click here or find Heard on the Street on iTunesGoogle Play MusicSpotify and Stitcher.

 

The Bond Buyer: Infrastructure Policy Seen Shifting to Private Investments

President-elect Donald Trump's choice of Elaine Chao as his transportation secretary signals to industry professionals that federal infrastructure policy over the next four years will focus on how to bring more private equity into the financial mix for large projects.

 

Trump's still undefined $1 trillion infrastructure proposal would be a good start to meeting the needs, they said, but Republicans in Congress may be reluctant to approve the tax credits that underlie the plan.

 

"The Obama administration made some progress in the field of public-private partnerships but that is going to grow under the new president," said Marsha Hale, executive director of Building America's Future, an infrastructure advocacy group.

 

"I believe we'll see an emphasis in tone from the past eight years," she said. "Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen, but [former Labor Department] Secretary Chao clearly knows her way around Washington. She seems to have a very strong opinion on what needs to be done and what can be done."

 

Trump announced his pick of Chao as transportation secretary on Tuesday. She served as deputy secretary of transportation from 1989 to 1991 under President George H.W. Bush and was secretary of labor for President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009.

 

Chao has been married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., since 1993.

 

The incoming president's $1 trillion proposal is encouraging to infrastructure professionals but paying for it is problematic, Hale said.

 

"It would be a nice down payment and we're hopeful it would even be larger," she said. "We're hopeful and more than willing to try to make it happen."

 

The $138 billion of federal tax credits proposed by Trump may be the sticking point of the $1 trillion plan, she said.

 

"From what few details we've seen, most of the funding for the plan comes from tax credits," Hale said. "We'd prefer that Congress revive and strengthen the Build America Bond program."

 

The best way to increase revenue in the Highway Trust Fund would be a higher federal gasoline tax, Hale said.

 

"That's what we'd advocate," she said. "But I'm not expecting it to happen overnight."

 

Chao is already well-versed on federal transportation policy, regulatory and safety matters, said Pete Ruane, president of the American Road &Transportation Builders Association.

 

"As a former deputy secretary of transportation and secretary of labor in the respective Bush Administrations, there will be little learning curve for Elaine Chao," Ruane said.

 

The Transportation Department is unlikely to see major changes under Chao, said Kevin DeGood, director of infrastructure policy at the Center for American Progress.

 

"The word on the street is that she is very conservative," he said. "She may track some programs and make some tweaks to them to fit the conservative model but most of the decisions on where the money goes is made by Congress."

 

Trump's $1 trillion plan is not a serious attempt to deal with infrastructure funding, DeGood said.

 

"That plan is largely a joke," he said. "There is no appetite in Congress to authorize $138 billion of tax credits and no appetite at all among the Republican leadership to spend more money on infrastructure."

 

DeGood said he expects Chao to stress the role of P3s and private investments in financing projects with a revenue stream.

 

"We are certainly going to see more P3s and an emphasis on private equity," he said. "That does not solve the revenue problem."

 

Information about Chao's personal viewpoints on infrastructure funding is limited, said James Corless, director of Transportation for America.

 

"Chao is certainly a capable manager for a large federal agency like the Transportation Department," he said. "President-elect Trump has stated that infrastructure will be a priority of his first 100 days in office, and the incoming secretary will surely have a sizable impact on any possible infrastructure package in 2017."