Dem lawmaker renews push for infrastructure, tax package

Dem lawmaker renews push for infrastructure, tax package
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A Democratic lawmaker is renewing a push for an infrastructure and tax reform package this fall, hoping to seize on the fact that the Trump administration has not figured out how to pay for its $1 trillion rebuilding plan yet.

Rep. John Delaney (Md.) has long advocated for bipartisan legislation to use the revenues from overhauling the international tax code to make massive infrastructure upgrades around the country.

But now Delaney, who just launched a 2020 presidential bid, believes he has a new opportunity as President Trump and the GOP-led Congress are scrambling to score a legislative victory following their latest defeat on healthcare.

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“They don’t really have a plan to pay for infrastructure,” Delaney said in a sit-down interview with The Hill.  “My strategy is to try to force the conversation around how they are going to pay for infrastructure.”

Trump has long promised to upgrade U.S. roads, bridges, airports and other public works. But the White House has yet to unveil a legislative package, while congressional leaders have signaled that the rebuilding proposal must wait on the sidelines until they tackle tax reform.

However, tax reform could be just as daunting as healthcare, and the administration admitted that it has not identified any offsets for the infrastructure plan.

That’s where Delaney thinks he has the solution. The concept, known as “repatriation”, would tax corporate earnings that are being stored abroad when that money returns to the U.S. and use the money to modernize the country’s infrastructure.

Delaney has introduced two different bills with Republican Reps. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoTrouble brewing as GOP struggles with spending bill votes A retreat in American diplomacy Trump huddles with transportation leaders ahead of expected infrastructure plan MORE (Fla.) and Rodney Davis (Ill.) that are aimed at tapping into cash overseas. An estimated $2 trillion in earnings is stashed abroad, they say.

“The idea of bipartisanship is to give each side a win,” Delaney said. “Infrastructure has been a big part of the Democratic platform for a long time, and fixing this international tax system — which is the most uncompetitive part of our tax code — is in fact something Republicans have talked more about.”

One measure sponsored by Delaney and Davis would establish a $50 billion infrastructure bank to finance local transportation, energy, water and education projects.

The bank, which would put an emphasis on public-private partnerships, would be funded through the sale of 50-year bonds to U.S. corporations that want to repatriate overseas earnings. In turn, the companies would be allowed to bring a certain amount of overseas earnings back to the U.S. with no federal tax liability for every $1 invested in the bonds.

The other bill, from Delaney and Yoho, would allow U.S. multinational corporations to repatriate earnings at a mandatory, one-time tax of 8.75 percent, a discount on the current 35 percent rate and deferral option.

Those revenues would be used to improve the nation’s infrastructure, with an estimated $120 billion going to the Highway Trust Fund, $50 billion going to an infrastructure bank and $25 million going to a pilot program focused on rural infrastructure.

The legislation also sets an 18-month deadline for international tax reform and creates a panel to explore long-term funding solutions for financing the ailing Highway Trust Fund.

Trump initially floated the idea of linking tax reform and infrastructure together, but the administration has backed off the idea in recent months.

Delaney, however, is ramping up efforts to sell the administration, Congress and the public on the concept. He plans to discuss the legislation with colleagues and make the issue apart of his campaign platform, while his Republican co-sponsors have already brought the idea to Vice President Pence.

But the plan could run into familiar obstacles. Conservatives, including powerful groups like Americans for Tax Reform, want to use all the money from repatriation to pay for a major overhaul of the tax code.

Delaney also acknowledged that his 2020 bid could have an impact on Republicans’ willingness to work with him on the issue.

However, if Congress can’t get tax reform over the finish line and repatriation is still an available option, Delaney thinks his legislation will have an even better shot.

“I think where our opportunity is, if tax reform fails, we should have a very strong push to do international tax reform and infrastructure together, because then they would have tried to do their tax reform and it would have failed,” he said.