WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama called Friday for $21 billion in public and private investment in roads, bridges and other public projects. The president is aiming to reassure Americans that he remains focused on the economic recovery.
President Obama said rebuilding infrastructure, with the help of private investment, is one of the best ways to put more Americans to work.
The president made his appeal at the port of Miami, Florida, where public and private money are paying for $2 billion in upgrades.
“There are few more important things we can do to create jobs right now and strengthen our economy over the long haul than rebuilding the infrastructure that powers our businesses and our economy - our roads, our bridges, our schools, and our ports, just like this one," said President Obama.
The president wanted to show that the White House is still concentrating on the economy, despite prominent campaigns for gun control and immigration reform.
“As president, my top priority is to make sure we are doing everything we can to reignite the true engine of our economic growth," said Obama. "And that is a rising, thriving middle class. A growing economy that creates good middle class jobs.”
Obama said he wanted to give foreign pension funds tax-exempt status when selling U.S. infrastructure, property or real estate assets.
He also called for higher limits on state and local government bonds used to attract investment in infrastructure projects.
And the president renewed his call for a $10-billion national infrastructure bank. That idea received little support during Obama’s first term.
The president also advocated for a “Fix-It-First” program that would spend $40 billion in government money on urgent repairs.
His proposals for new initiatives have repeatedly been blocked by Republicans in Congress, who are concerned that increased government spending would hurt efforts to cut the nation’s deficit.
The chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, said Friday spending on the infrastructure proposals would not add to the deficit.
The president is expected to include the new initiatives in the budget plan he will unveil on April 10.
U.S. consumer spending in February showed its largest growth in five months, according to the Commerce Department. Consumer spending powers about 70 percent of the nation’s economy.