Roundtable Weekly
Biden Administration Preparing Multitrillion Economic Growth Proposal; Transportation Secretary Buttigieg Testifies Gateway Project Has “Sense of Urgency”
March 27, 2021

Oval Office Infrastructure meeting Biden Buttigieg others

President Biden will unveil an ambitious economic growth plan on March 31 that may cost up to $4 trillion to fund his administration’s wide-ranging goals on infrastructure, climate and domestic policies. (Reuters, March 24 and Bloomberg News, March 25) 

  • The administration’s legislative effort may be split into two parts – an initial package that funds transportation projects with a focus on climate change, and a second that addresses domestic priorities such as universal prekindergarten, national childcare and free community college tuition.  (Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, March 22, New York Times March 25)

  • Congressional Democrats are working on a filibuster-proof fiscal 2022 reconciliation bill to advance President Biden's economic recovery plan, along with a five-year surface transportation reauthorization. Funding for the current surface transportation bill expires Sept. 30. (Law360, March 22)

  • Axios reported on March 23, the White House is considering using the budget reconciliation process two more times this year, after using it to pass the recent $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package without any Republican support. Enacting three separate reconciliation packages would be unprecedented, and require a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian that proposed legislation is eligible for reconciliation under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. 

Focus on Gateway Project: 

Gateway Project map
  • The “Gateway” rail tunnel project between New York City and New Jersey is a high priority for the Biden administration that is being treated with a “sense of urgency,” according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who testified March 25 before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. (BGov, March 25)

  • “This is a regional issue, but one of national significance because if there were a failure in one of those tunnels, the entire U.S. economy would feel it,” Buttigieg said. He added that federal and state officials are working “to develop the next administrative draft of the environmental impact statement, which is a big part of what needs to be completed in order to get there.”

  • Buttigieg also acknowledged that funding the administration’s infrastructure transportation goals must look to other revenue sources than borrowing. “There is a simple set of places we can look: user fees, general fund or other tax sources as Congress has done to fill gaps in Highway Trust Fund in recent years or borrowing,” Buttigieg testified.

 How to Pay: 

Yellen and Powell remote testimony
  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified jointly this week before House and Senate committees on economic conditions and pandemic relief. (Wall Street Journal, March 23)

  • Yellen testified before the House Financial Services Committee on March 23 that future taxes are needed to fund infrastructure programs. “A package that consists of investments in people, investments in infrastructure, will help to create good jobs in the American economy, and changes to the tax structure will help to pay for those programs.” She added, “We do need to raise revenues in a fair way to support the spending that this economy needs to be competitive and productive.” (Financial Times, March 23)

  • Chairman Powell responded to a concern from House Committee Member Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) that Fed data indicates 51 percent of current commercial real estate debt is held by banks and that community banks have a higher concentration of these loans. Powell stated, “We're monitoring CRE very carefully. Its concentrations arise principally in smaller banks, and we'll have to monitor it carefully as we allow moratoriums to elapse. We're well aware of the issue and we'll be sure to move very, very carefully when we do address that.”

  • The two regulators also testified before the Senate Banking Committee on March 24. Treasury Secretary Yellen stated that the federal government can afford to invest trillions, despite the national debt. “My views on the amount of fiscal space that the United States, I would say, have changed somewhat since 2017. Interest payments on that debt relative to GDP have not gone up at all, and so I think that's a more meaningful metric of the burden of the debt on society and on the federal finances,” Yellen said. (The Hill, March 24)

 Taxes & CRE: 

Taxes and CRE Ryan McCormick
  • A March 25 BisNow webinar on Tax Policy and the Impact on CRE featured Roundtable Senior Vice President and Tax Counsel Ryan McCormick, bottom left in photo. The webinar focused on the outlook for real estate tax policy in 2021, with an emphasis on like-kind exchanges and opportunity zones.

  • Other participants included Ja’Ron Smith, former Deputy Assistant to President Trump; Capital Square Founder and CEO Louis Rogers; and David Franasiak, Principal at Williams & Jensen. (Watch Video)

Congress leaves Washington today for a two-week recess. “When the Senate returns to session, our agenda will be no less ambitious than it was over the past few months,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said yesterday. (The Hill, March 25 and New York Times, March 26) 

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