Obama returns to Minn. to tout new infrastructure plan

Minnesota may become the earliest battleground for a Democratic President Barack Obama reelection bid four years from now. Next week, as early as Tuesday, the former vice president will return to the state to tout the new federal infrastructure plan he has unveiled on the campaign trail.

“I know that everyone in this audience is working diligently every day to rebuild our roads, our bridges, our schools, and our dams and our waterways, and when we do, we will rebuild our economy and our country just as we have done in the past,” Obama told the crowd of an estimated 3,000 people. “When we do that, we’ll finally have the infrastructure to support our growth and to grow it sustainably.”

The president, who currently controls roughly 50 percent of the state’s popular vote, has been touting the economic benefits of the $305 billion infrastructure plan he put forward last month in an attempt to reach both voters who have supported his fellow Democratic Party and those who have not.

The president’s package includes $150 billion in funding for the Highway Trust Fund, which Republicans have said they won’t approve. A new federal gas tax of 18.4 cents a gallon would be increased by nearly 19 percent over 10 years, according to Obama’s proposal.

Obama also outlined plans to promote “green jobs” and new economic opportunities from trains to new roads to improved dam safety. The cost of the program, put forward as a first response to what he said was a long-term, $3.6 trillion transportation and water infrastructure funding gap, runs higher than the total deficit for the current fiscal year — a $447 billion package crafted by House Republicans.

“The only way we’re going to address this long-term structural deficit is by asking more from the wealthiest Americans in America. And that’s what this bill does,” Obama said.

“You’ll see, in the bill we propose, the wealthiest Americans are being asked to pay more in taxes than they paid in the last four years, but we’ve also offset the entire cost of this,” he added.

The bill also lays out a broad framework for addressing federal spending on the condition of the national debt, and also a $120 billion additional appropriation for domestic construction projects that the president has called on Congress to include in next year’s budget, a step that’s been resisted by Republicans.

While the proposal is unlikely to pass, it’s a big step toward Obama’s oft-stated goal of a new spending spree in his final two years in office. But he doesn’t plan to spend the money, instead hoping to rewire the nation’s infrastructure using revenue from the gas tax increase.

“Let’s make sure that nobody’s getting outworked this year when it comes to these investments,” Obama said.

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