House Dem files 'Infrastructure 2.0' bill

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A House Democrat is introducing a bill to spend $170 billion over the next six years to boost the nation's transportation infrastructure.

The measure, which has been dubbed The Infrastructure 2.0 Act, comes as lawmakers have been discussing the possibility of raising the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax to help pay for a new round of transportation spending this year.

Transportation advocates have suggested increasing the tax as prices at the pump have fallen to their lowest levels in years, but Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) is offering legislation that would call for using revenue from corporate tax reform to pay for several years' worth of roads and transit projects.

"America’s infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, re-launched and reimagined," Delaney said in a  statement. "To create jobs, compete globally and improve our quality of life, building a 21st century national infrastructure this should be our top economic priority. The Infrastructure 2.0 Act is the new policy solution we need to break the legislative gridlock that’s created clogged highways, crowded runways and costly delays for entrepreneurs and workers."

Delaney's bill would pump $150 billion into the Department of Transportation's Highway Trust Fund, which is normally filled with gas tax revenue, over the next six years. The money would be used to close a shortfall in federal transportation funding that is estimated to be about $16 billion per year.

The measure would also set aside $50 billion to fund the creation of a national infrastructure bank that Delaney's office said would attract $750 billion in private investment in U.S. transportation projects.

Transportation advocates have argued that raising the gas tax, which has not been increased since 1993, would be the easiest way to close the nation's transportation funding shortfall.

Republicans leaders like Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have signaled that they are opposed to asking drivers to pay more at the pump to finance transportation projects, although some key GOP senators have said they would be open to discussing an increase in a broader discussion about taxes and infrastructure spending.

The gas tax, which predates the development of the Interstate Highway System, has been the traditional source for transportation projects since its inception in the 1930s.

The tax at the pump brings in about $34 billion per year. The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on road and transit projects, and transportation advocates have maintained that the larger figure is only enough to maintain the current state of U.S. infrastructure.

Delaney said Wednesday that his proposal to use savings from corporate tax reform was a more politically viable way to close the transportation funding shortfall this year.

"With a looming Highway Trust Fund crisis ahead of us, it is clear that we need a new answer," he said. "Over the last two years, I’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats to build bipartisan support for using international tax reform to pay for new infrastructure projects and there’s more momentum behind this framework than ever before. The Infrastructure 2.0 Act addresses our immediate concerns and guarantees that Congress enacts long-term fixes to both the Highway Trust Fund and the international tax code.”

The current transportation funding bill, which spends about $11 billion and authorizes the collection of the gas tax at its current rate, is scheduled to expire in May.