Bond Buyer 6/13/14 2:16pm ET By Jim Watts
DALLAS — President Obama’s four-year, $302 billion transportation funding bill introduced on Thursday by a bipartisan pair of representatives is not expected to gain traction in the Republican-controlled House as that chamber prepares its own proposal.
The president’s measure, known as the Grow America Act, is sponsored by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wisc., chairman of the transportation subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Norton said she prefers a six-year bill that is fully funded to provide a longer horizon for transportation planning by state and local governments, but that the president’s four-year proposal will serve as a platform for development of a House measure.
The current two-year funding bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century or MAP -21, will expire on Sept. 30, as fiscal 2014 ends.
“I believe Congress must act soon on a fully funded six-year reauthorization,” Norton said. “This administration’s four-year bill is a timely contribution as Congress works towards passage of a long-term surface transportation authorization, and should provide guidance and ideas as we develop legislation to set the future course of these vital programs.”
The Grow America Act calls for $199.2 billion of highway spending and $72 billion for public transit through fiscal 2018. It also provides $5 billion over four years for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recover grant program.
The title of president’s four-year program is an acronym for Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America.
The Senate has adopted a six-year extension of MAP-21 that keeps funding at fiscal 2014 levels plus inflation through 2020. The House transportation committee has yet to develop a bill, but chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said he intends to have a multi-year measure ready for committee approval before a month-long congressional recess begins on Aug. 2.
Both chambers have passed fiscal 2015 transportation budget bills that freeze highway spending at the $41 billion appropriated in MAP-21 for 2014, although the Senate version provides more funding for transit and grant programs.
In a statement released on June 10, the White House criticized H.R. 4745, the House bill that sets the fiscal 2015 budgets for the Transportation Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“The bill fails to make needed investments in our nation’s infrastructure,” the Office of Management and Budget said. “The administration looks forward to working with the Congress to fund critical investments to rebuild our transportation infrastructure, create jobs, and grow the economy.”
The president’s proposal would use up to $160 billion of one-time revenues from a reform of the corporate tax code to support the $302 billion of transportation spending proposed in the measure. The proposal would allow U.S. multinational corporations to bring back, or repatriate, foreign earnings at a lower tax rate for a specified period.
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Ill., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has proposed tax reforms that would generate $126.5 billion of revenues for the Highway Trust Fund over eight years through a similar repatriation program.
None of the other three proposals on the table would provide a solution for supporting the Highway Trust Fund beyond the revenues from federal gasoline and diesel taxes.
Congress transferred a total of $58 billion of general fund revenues to the highway fund since fiscal 2008 as expenditures outpaced gas tax collections. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the fund will require an extra $18 billion in fiscal 2015 and up to $100 billion of additional revenues over the next six years to support the current spending rate plus expected increases.
A coalition of business groups sent a leader to congressional leaders last week to oppose using repatriations for transportation or any other purpose beyond reducing the corporate tax rate.
“Some have suggested using revenue generated by so-called ‘pro-growth tax reform’ to finance projects unrelated to overall tax reform that would fail to provide the rate reduction important to job-creating businesses,” said the letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Retail Federation. “We believe that all available revenue from the elimination of tax expenditures and other changes in the code should be used expressly for the purposes of comprehensive tax reform,” the group said.
House Pair Introduces Obama’s $302 Billion Highway Bill
Bond Buyer 6/13/14 2:16pm ET By Jim Watts