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Mnuchin pledges to push for $1.5T infrastructure plan 'this year'

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pledged to push for passage of the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan during a Thursday appearance before Congress.

“I look forward to working with Chairman [Richard] Neal [D-Mass.] and the committee on a bipartisan basis,” Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee, with the goal of passing the ambitious building plan, “this year.”

That plan would rely heavily on state and local governments, as well as private investment, to provide most of the funding. Trump’s own budget only earmarked $200 billion to pay for the $1.5 trillion the administration wants.

When asked later by a reporter as to whether paying for infrastructure could include raising the gas tax, or otherwise taxing the use of highways and roads, Mnuchin would not say if the administration might support that.

“I’m not going to make any specific comments on pay-fors," said Mnuchin. "We’re going to sit down on a bipartisan basis and we’ll see what we can agree on. This has to be a combination of the administration, the House, and the Senate ... and see what we can get done. Everyone has got the same objective of, we want to make infrastructure investments.”

Neal opened Thursday's hearing by identifying infrastructure as a potential area of agreement between congressional Democrats and the administration, though the two sides remain far apart on the reality of funding such a major new spending plan. Trump’s plan leans on state and local governments, as well as private equity, to multiply federal funding.

“Your comments have been very encouraging, the president’s comments have been very encouraging, on the topic of infrastructure,” said Neal at the open of today’s hearing.

But other members of the panel voiced more skepticism.

“Communities with limited capacity and very little excess capital will be unable to take advantage of this,” said Rep. Dan Kildee D-Mich., who represents Flint, a city in that state with an unsafe water system.