Wednesday, July 15, 2015

House Proposes 5 Month Surface Transportation Fix

            Unable to come forward with any acceptable compromise on long term funding to keep the Federal Highway Trust Fund solvent over the long term, in the face of the July 31 expiration of the band aid measure passed at the end of May, the Chairmen of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee are jointly proposing to extend general revenue infusions totaling $8.1 billion into the highway till, to keep summertime road construction projects going through December 18. Bill Schuster (R-Pa.) and Paul Ryan (R- Wis.) issued a joint statement yesterday, proposing a bill which should come to a vote in the House today. They said, in part, “ This country needs a long-term plan to fix our roads, bridges and other infrastructure, and this bill gives us our best shot at completing one this year. … By providing resources through the end of the year, we can ensure construction continues while we work toward a package that could close the trust fund’s shortfall for as many as six years.”

            This House measure would transfer cash from general revenues to the highway trust fund account, to be offset by $8.3 billion in anticipated Transportation Security Administration fees. House Republican have ruled out any increase in motor fuel taxes, and the current proposal includes a $90 million tax cut for natural gas and LPG producers, to bring their rates in line with motor fuel taxes. While the House proposal does not include an unrelated renewal of Export-Import Bank authority, the Senate is expected to add that into its version of this must pass legislation, adding to the potential for last second histrionics in debate over the ultimate conference committee legislation.

            The Senate has before it a six year highway trust fund extension bill providing $300 billion in cash to the fund, but has failed to reach agreement on revenue to support the measure. The Senate’s thinking that a one time tax on $2 trillion in foreign profits of U. S. firms could fill the gap is clearly a non-starter in the House, despite Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s opposition to any more surface transportation band aids.