DOT chief ‘delighted’ by Obama $300B infrastructure proposal

Anne Wernikoff

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Wednesday he was “delighted” by President Obama’s proposal of $302 billion on a new four-year transportation funding bill.

Foxx was traveling to Minnesota with Obama to make the announcement at a Minneapolis-Saint Paul Metro light rail operations and maintenance facility. 

Foxx said the president’s plan would be “innovative, job creating and transformative for the communities where they occur” and would “do all kinds of great things for this country, including roads, highways, transit and rail.”

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“There’s some structural problems with the funding in the highway trust fund because it’s gas tax dependent,” Foxx said.

He expressed confidence when he was asked about the prospects for the president’s proposal gaining traction in Congress.

“The certainty here is that we have a transportation cliff that is coming in August or September,” the Transportation secretary said. “And one can posit any type of solution, and there will be voices that will say one thing or another can’t get done. I think the most important thing is the ideas will be put on the table. … We want the ideas to be put on the table; everybody needs to put their cards on the table … because the one thing nobody wants to do is see the Highway Trust Fund go insolvent. Because that would be a very bad thing.”

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected the Highway Trust Fund would go bankrupt as early as August without congressional action.

The trust fund has traditionally been funded by the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax. However, the gas tax only brings in approximately $34 billion per year, while the current surface transportation bill that was passed by Congress in 2012 contains more than $50 billion in annual road and transit spending.

Obama is expected to call for using $150 billion in savings White House officials say could be obtained by closing corporate tax loopholes to bolster federal transportation funding.

Republicans leaders in the House issued a similar $126 billion proposal on Wednesday afternoon.

Transportation advocates have pushed lawmakers to increase the gas tax to create additional revenue for road and transit projects, but lawmakers have been hesitant to support the proposal.

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