President Obama will press Congress to pass new tax incentives and other flexibility measures aimed at attracting more private sector investment in infrastructure projects around the country, a senior administration official said.
The president will flesh out the details of his proposals during a speech Friday at a Miami port that is undergoing $2 billion in upgrades, funded by public and private money. In his quick trip to South Florida, Obama will try to show the public that the economy remains his top priority in the midst of high-profile campaigns on immigration reform and gun control.
Among the proposals Obama will call for Friday:
-- Higher caps on "private activity bonds" to encourage the private sector to spend more on highway projects and other infrastructure needs. State and local governments use the bonds to attract investment.
-- Giving foreign pension funds tax-exempt status when selling U.S. infrastructure, property or real estate assets. U.S. pension funds are generally tax exempt under such circumstances. The administration says some international pension funds cite the tax burden as a reason for not investing in American infrastructure.
-- $4 billion in new spending on two infrastructure programs that award loans and grants.
-- A renewed call for a $10 billion national "infrastructure bank" -- a proposal from his first term that gained little traction.
The administration official requested anonymity because the proposals were not being announced publicly until Friday's event.
The president made private sector infrastructure investment a key part of the economic agenda he rolled out in his State of the Union address last month. He also called in the national address for a "Fix-It-First" program that would spend $40 billion in taxpayer funds on urgent repairs.
Obama's focus on generating more private sector investment underscores the tough road new spending faces on Capitol Hill, where Republican lawmakers often threaten to block additional spending unless it is offset through tax cuts or other measures.
The official said any increased spending associated with the proposals Obama was outlining Friday would not add to the deficit. But the official did not detail how the costs would be offset, saying only that more information would be included in the president's budget.
Obama will release his budget April 10.