Performance Infrastructure Review Committee

The Performance Infrastructure Review Committee (PIRC) is an informal group of policy and finance specialists focusing on new financing tools that would promote more efficient infrastructure investments.  Mercator principals David Seltzer and Bryan Grote are members of PIRC and actively participate in the group’s federal policy deliberations and evaluations of potential financing mechanisms. Read some of the group’s recent contributions to Public Works Financing:

AASHTO BATIC Institute

Mercator plays a leading role in designing and delivering the professional education and technical training components of the Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) Institute, a collaborative venture with AASHTO and the USDOT.  We organize and facilitate peer exchanges and produce webinars on topics of relevance to state and agency practitioners.

Peer Exchanges

Webinars

A Reality Check for Private Investment Plans

The Trump administration has set an ambitious goal of increasing investment in public infrastructure by $1 trillion over the next decade. Administration officials and some congressional leaders have emphasized a desire to achieve this by promoting “private investment” rather than relying on public funding. “For every $1 of federal dollars, there’s $40 of private-sector spending. We want to leverage as much private-sector dollars as possible to maximize the fixing of our infrastructure,” said Speaker Paul Ryan in during an interview with Charlie Rose on January 18, 2017.

Bryan Grote of Mercator Advisors took an in-depth look at the past performance of transportation public-private partnerships to show that the 40 to 1 ratio cited by Speaker Ryan includes all sorts of non-federal spending and debt financing and is a misleading indicator of the “private spending” potential.  Mr. Grote’s January 2017 article for Public Works Financing offers a reality check for those who maintain that private investment is the primary (if not entire) solution for achieving the President’s infrastructure plan.

Tax Credit Financing Proposals

Since the election, there has been much discussion about the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) proposal of Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross, along with critiques of it in the press. David Seltzer and Bryan Grote summarized the technical aspects of the ITC proposal along with another application of federal tax policy to induce private infrastructure investment – the Tax Credit Bond (TCB) – for the November 2016 issue of  Public Works Financing.

TIFIA Loans to Lenders

The new FAST Act contains revisions to the TIFIA statute, including the addition of language to allow TIFIA loans to lenders. Mercator principals Bryan Grote and David Seltzer were early advocates of this idea. Read what they were saying in the January 2014 issue of Public Works Financing about loans to lenders and the potential benefits for rural projects.

FEDERAL TAX POLICY

Tax code incentives are an important federal policy tool for stimulating investment in targeted sectors. Unlike direct grants, which are fully scored upfront, or federal credit, where the present value of the interest subsidy and/or default risk is scored when the loan or guarantee is obligated, the tax expenditures (foregone Treasury revenues) associated with tax code measures are scored annually. This spreading of the fiscal impact produces a better alignment of costs and benefits associated with long-lived infrastructure investments, and it effectively enables quasi capital budgeting at the federal level.

Over the last decade, Mercator has worked with several public agencies and trade organizations in advancing tax code incentives to help finance critical infrastructure. One of the most promising proposals—especially in an era of constrained grant resources—is qualified tax credit bonds.

DULLES CORRIDOR METRORAIL PROJECT FINANCING

Since 2007, Mercator has assisted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority with developing and implementing the overall plan of finance for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail (Silver Line) Project, including establishing the master indenture of trust for leveraging Dulles Toll Road revenues to help finance the Project. This comprehensive financial advisory assignment has entailed coordination with local and state funding partners, navigation of federal programs and processes in obtaining federal grant ($900 million) and TIFIA loan ($1.3 billion) assistance, and work with other advisors, underwriters, potential investors, rating analysts and traffic and revenue consultants in accessing the capital markets for long-term debt financing ($1.7 billion) and short-term interim financing (up to $700 million).