$10.5 billion highway funding bill proposed by Ways and Means Committee

July 10, 2014

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee has proposed a $10.5 billion highway bill that would act as a infusion to maintain the U.S. Highway Trust Fund through 2015.

The bill has the support of House Republicans but is being challenged by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA.) and Tom Carper (D-DE), The Hill reported.

The plan by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), would offset its costs by letting employers delay contributions to their employee pension plans, which raises corporate taxable income in a boon for the U.S. Treasury. It also would boost customs user fees and transfer $1 billion from a federal leaking underground storage trust fund.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that he expects the House will vote next week on a proposal to maintain the rapidly dwindling Highway Trust Fund through early 2015.

Boehner endorsed the measure at the weekly House GOP press conference and indicated the chamber would move quickly.

"I think Chairman Camp and members of the Ways and Means Committee have a really solid bill to help pay for the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund for the next eight to nine months," Boehner said.

Under Camp's proposal, the extension would be offset with about $6.4 billion in revenue from pension smoothing, another $3.5 billion from customs user fees and a final $1 billion from an account set up to deal with leaking underground storage tanks. Some of those pay-fors have been offered as ways to pay for renewing unemployment insurance, perhaps making it even harder to move a Democratic priority in this Congress.

If Congress doesn’t act before it leaves for August, the transportation department has said that states would face a 28 percent cut in infrastructure funding. The Transportation Department has also said that allowing the trust fund to go bankrupt could cost 700,000 jobs. Without congressional action, the department would have to withhold payments to state and local governments next month, the DOT added.

The plan would keep the trust fund solvent until the end of next May -- a move opponents say will take too much pressure off for a longer measure backed by groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, Bloomberg reported. 

Senators in both political parties already are lambasting a short-term proposal they say will simply “kick the can” into 2015. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), said Camp’s plan is “an embarrassment.” Senator Boxer also called for a shorter-term solution.

“Passing an eight-month patch is disastrous and it will bring the construction industry into despair,” Boxer said at a news conference.

There are increasing signs that the longer-term debate will get pushed into 2015. While a Senate panel in May approved a measure that reauthorizes highway and mass transit programs for six years, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster said he may decide to wait until next year to introduce his own broad-based bill.
 

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