Highway Funding Bill

Senate to Consider Short-Term Infrastructure Funding Bill  

Reps. Ryan (R-Wi) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) introduced a bill on July 13 that would extend federal transport spending for highway and transit programs through the end of this year, as DC Velocity writes. The legislation, “H.R. 3038 – Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Part II,” passed 312-119 by recorded vote in the House on July 15, according to Congress.gov, and has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under “Read the First Time.”

Transportation.gov wrote recently that the only way to repair the roads and bridges of the U.S. transportation system is for Congress to stop its pattern of enacting short term measures (of which there have been 33) and pass a long-term transportation bill. Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) made the same point in RealEstateRama, saying: “House leadership must stop lurching from one manufactured crisis to the next and work with Democrats to find a long-term solution that repairs our deteriorating roads, bridges and rails – and provides certainty and stability to states as they plan for the future.”

Ryan, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Shuster, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said extending the funding through the end of the year will allow road construction to continue through autumn, and give Congress the time to create and pass a long-term spending bill, likely encompassing six years.

As Michael D. Shear wrote for The New York Times in February, President Obama called for a nearly half-trillion dollar transportation construction project in his proposed budget. The $478 billion plan to improve the nation’s infrastructure would provide 33% more funding for large public works construction, and would take six years, Shear wrote. Approximately half of that funding would come from a new one-time 14% tax on the almost $2 trillion of foreign earnings held outside the U.S., Shear wrote. Those earnings — held by such companies as Apple, Cisco Systems, and Microsoft — escape immediate taxation currently, Shear wrote. The president’s plan would raise $240 billion in additional funds from the federal gasoline tax and other revenue sources, Shear wrote.

There is a 35% tax on major American companies’ overseas earnings, but many such companies avoid paying it via a legal loophole that permits them to keep the earnings outside the U.S. indefinitely, Shear wrote. Obama’s proposal would lower the tax on American companies’ foreign earnings from 35% to 19%.

Shear wrote: “Many Republicans oppose a mandatory tax on foreign earnings, preferring a ‘repatriation holiday’ in which companies would be allowed to return their overseas revenues to the United States by paying a reduced tax rate.” But such a “holiday” system would allow companies to pay on a voluntary basis, whereas Obama’s budget proposal would make payment mandatory, Shear wrote.

In the opinion of The Washington Post editorial board, the best way to fund the Highway Trust Fund, whose funding runs out on July 31, would be to increase the federal gas tax, which paid for the U.S. infrastructure for decades until lawmakers stopped increasing it back in 1993. Second best, the board adds, would be a tax reform approach, namely the complicated six-year plan, which has some bipartisan support. The worst funding option would be continuing the status quo for several more years without appreciable new revenue, the board wrote.

 

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