GOP congressman: Private funding should be a part of infrastructure plan

Key Points
  • Rep. Mike Kelly likes the idea of private activity bonds for infrastructure funding.
  • "This is going to be a big lift for all of America," he says.
  • President Donald Trump is calling for Congress to advance a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.
Rep. Mike Kelly: Public Buildings Renewal Act is a win for taxpayers

Investing in rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure shouldn't just be left to the government alone, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., told CNBC on Wednesday.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Donald Trump called on Congress to advance a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. Funding should come from partnering with state and local governments and "where appropriate, tapping into the private sector," Trump said.

"The president said very clearly last night — federal funds, state funds and private activity. That's what we're going to have to combine. This is going to be a big lift for all of America," Kelly said in an interview with "Power Lunch."

Construction crews conduct repairs on Broadway Street in San Francisco.
Getty Images

"It's not a Republican issue. It's not a Democrat issue. It's an American issue. We have got to rebuild our infrastructure," he said.

Kelly championed the notion of public-private partnerships last year when he introduced legislation called the Public Buildings Renewal Act. The bill would create a new type of private activity bonds that would allow governments to work with private entities on renovating or constructing public buildings.

He says that's an idea that can work when it comes to repairing the nation's roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure.

"When you look at that — private activity bonds — that's something that works in a lot of cases and something that the American people can participate in. There's nothing like it that I've seen to date," Kelly said.

However, Trump has doubted the effectiveness of public-private partnerships in conversations with advisors.

And on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged that certain rural projects would not be an attractive enough investment for the private sector.

"There's many, many infrastructure projects that are not going to be privately funded," he said.

Kelly said he's had conversations with Trump about private funding in infrastructure.

"He wants to make sure that if we're asking people to invest that we're giving them a return on that investment," he said.

The White House is expected to release its infrastructure package, which will include $200 billion in government spending, in two weeks.

— Kayla Tausche and Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated the Public Buildings Renewal Act was for private buildings.