DOT chief to make ‘major’ transport funding announcement

Anne Wernikoff

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is planning to make a “major” announcement about infrastructure funding on Tuesday morning, according to officials at the Department of Transportation (DOT). 

There is speculation that Foxx will be unveiling the Obama administration’s proposed legislation for reauthorizing federal transportation funding programs that are scheduled to expire in September. 

Foxx has promised recently that Obama would be sending a detailed proposal to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, reversing the president's 2012 decision to defer the details on infrastructure funding levels to Congress. 

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"Soon, the Obama administration will do exactly what the president promised in St. Paul, Minnesota, earlier this year: Present Congress with a surface transportation reauthorization proposal," Foxx wrote in a blog post on the Transportation Department’s website earlier this month.

Obama was criticized for failing to provide a specific bill proposal during the last infrastructure funding debate in 2012, when lawmakers approved the 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act.

During most of that last infrastructure funding debate, the Obama administration shied away from recommending specific legislative language after the president's proposal for a six-year, $556 billion that year fell flat with lawmakers.

Obama has called this year for lawmakers to approve a four-year, $302 billion transportation bill, using approximately $150 billion in revenue from closing corporate tax loopholes to fund a large part of the measure. 

Lawmakers are grappling with a shortfall in transportation funding that is projected to reach as high as $20 billion per year soon.

The traditional source for transportation funding is the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax. But the gas tax has not been increased since 1993, and receipts are not being far outpaced by infrastructure expenses. 

Transportation advocates have pushed for an increase in the gas tax to a rate that would nearly double the amount of extra money drivers are charged at the pump to 33 cents per gallon. Supporters say the increase would make up for the revenue that has been lost during a 20-year stagnation in the gas tax and provide enough money to fund a long-term transportation bill now. 

The Obama administration has stated that its preference is for lawmakers to approve a one-time transfer of money from a corporate tax reform package that is considered a long-shot to be approved during this election year. 

The Congressional Budget Office has projected that lawmakers will have to approve an extra $100 billion in addition to the approximately $34 billion that is expected to be brought in by the federal gas tax to provide enough money to pay for a six-year transportation bill this year. 

Transportation advocates have clamored for a longer transportation bill since lawmakers approved the two-year funding measure that is currently expiring because they say state and local governments need more certainty that federal money will be coming to help with infrastructure projects.