President touts the virtues of his $1.5 trillion plan in front of a crowd of more than 500 in rural Ohio.
RICHFIELD, Ohio — In a nearly hourlong speech, President Donald Trump talked about everything from his planned border wall with Mexico to the TV ratings success of the “Roseanne” reboot.
In between, and along the way Thursday afternoon, he touted the virtues of his $1.5 trillion plan to build new infrastructure and fix what’s in need of repair. The adoring crowd of more than 500 people inside a dirt-floor, all-weather building on the Ohio Operational Engineers Local 18 apprentices and training site, applauded the proposal.
“I love the smell of a construction site,” Trump said, surveying the cavernous field house, where men and women learn to dig, excavate, drill and pave with heavy equipment.
Trump’s 10-year plan to build and fix roads, bridges, pipes and put broadband access in rural America would be a combined effort of federal, state and local tax dollars along with private investment. His idea is to leverage $200 billion in federal tax dollars with $1.3 trillion from the other sources to reach the final figure.
Such a plan could create as many as 414,000 jobs, according to a 40-page report released on Wednesday by his Council of Economic Advisers. And many of those jobs, the report stated, would be filled by people with a high school degree or less, as well as by skilled trades workers, like those who attended the speech.
The president referred to the plan as “the next phase of America’s comeback.” He said he knows about building things, adding he may have been better at it than being president.
“This is the biggest and boldest infrastructure plan in the last half-century,” Trump said.
The program, he said, could be initiated as one piece of legislation from Congress or completed with multiple bills. Trump said he realizes, though, the first piece probably wouldn’t be passed until after this year’s mid-term elections.
House Speaker Paul Ryan already has said the proposal could be divided into as many as six bills.
The president said the U.S. has spent $7 trillion in the Middle East while watching its own infrastructure crumble. He said his plan is just another example of putting America first.
“We are like, in many cases, a third-world country,” he said.
Trump referred to digging the Panama Canal and building the Empire State Building as feats to aspire to again. And a key part of his plan, he said, is to reduce a burdensome regulatory approval waiting time from as long as a dozen years to just a year by establishing one federal point of contact for a yes or no answer on a project.
“We must reclaim that proud heritage,” Trump said.
Trump’s lectern was framed to the rear by a pair of 80,000-pound yellow-and-black-colored hydraulic excavators and two American flags while a “Building a Stronger America” sign hung from the ceiling directly behind and above the president.
Hard-hatted workers filled two bleachers while a third set included Trump’s daughters, Tiffany and Ivanka, Congressmen Bob Gibbs (R-Lakeville) and Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth), Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta.
He congratulated Chao for finally shepherding through a project in Alaska, which the president said had been stuck in bureaucratic red-tape limbo since 1975.
Trump also touched on an array of subjects that had nothing to do with the infrastructure program: His approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines; tax cuts; the border wall; military spending; the Second Amendment; the creation of 3 million jobs; low unemployment rates; rising wages; Hillary Clinton; fake news; school safety; opioids; merit-based immigration; Jerusalem; ISIS; oil; health care for veterans; “Roseanne;” NASA; and he even thanked former President Barack Obama for leaving more than 100 federal judge posts vacant, which Trump has since filled.
“We were left a present; it was like a gift from heaven,” Trump said of the judicial appointments.
Gibbs, whose district includes most of Stark and Tuscarawas counties, rode in the limousine from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport with Trump, Chao and Renacci to the event. After Trump’s speech, Gibbs said he liked what he heard.
“He’s dead-set on doing this,” said Gibbs, who serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The site of the event, near the village of Richfield, is in northern Summit County, about halfway between Akron and Cleveland. Although Trump lost both Summit and Cuyahoga counties in the 2016 election, he did win Ohio by more than 7 percentage points over Hillary Clinton.
Tim Botos is a reporter for The Canton (Ohio) Repository.