Biden pushes for infrastructure funding deal

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Vice President Biden pushed lawmakers on Thursday to reach a deal on boosting U.S. infrastructure funding this year.  

“There’s nothing partisan about infrastructure,” he said during a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington. 

“Here’s the deal, though,” Biden continued. “It gets partisan in how do you pay for it. It costs a lot of money.” 

{mosads}Lawmakers are expressing new hope for an infrastructure funding deal as gas prices across the U.S. have dropped sharply. 

An 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax is the primary source of revenue for funding transportation projects, and infrastructure supporters have been pushing to increase it for the first time since 1993, arguing the time is right now that drivers are paying less at the pump than they have in years. 

The White House has opposed the idea of increasing the gas tax, although infrastructure advocates believe the administration privately supports the proposal.  

Biden said Thursday that savings from reforming the federal government’s corporate tax code could be used to pay for transportation projects.

“The very people who want the infrastructure as much as you do, and you get it every day, is corporate America, the businesses,” he said. “So that’s how we can pay for all of this infrastructure. Reform the tax code; increase productivity in the process and pay for it by investing in the very things that will generate more productivity, business and enterprise, without raising the deficit, paying it all.” 

The Obama administration’s previous corporate tax reform proposals have gone nowhere on Capitol Hill, but Obama and Biden have both pitched them as a solution to a transportation funding shortfall that is estimated to be about $16 billion per year as gas tax revenues struggle to keep pace with more fuel efficient cars. 

“Everybody talks about corporate tax reform. Everyone — Democrats, Republicans,” he said. “Thirty-five percent — the level is too high. Makes us uncompetitive in other parts of the world.

“But the problem is now a lot of corporations pay at 35 percent and a lot pay at zero,” Biden continued. “If you go in and get rid of these tax expenditures of no productivity, put everybody in corporate America on the same field, manufacturers as well as others, you know what the result of that is without raising [the federal deficit]? That generates over $100 billion just by eliminating those things and bringing the rate down.” 

Republicans have also suggested that a transportation funding deal could be included in a broader tax reform package because they are unlikely to support a gas tax hike, no matter how low prices at the pump go. 

“I know the popular thing that a lot of people are talking about is the gas tax. But I just don’t believe the votes are there in the Congress at this point to do that,” House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said in an earlier speech of his own to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. 

“It seems that … the number one source that’s being talked about is this repatriation of funds,” Shuster continued. “So, as we go through this process and tax reform, it’ll be part of tax reform. We’ll figure out how to get there.” 

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. It 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 the U.S. infrastructure network. 

The current transportation funding bill, which authorizes the collection of the gas tax at its current rate, is scheduled to expire in May. 

Tags Barack Obama Bill Shuster Gas Tax Highway bill Highway Trust Fund Joe Biden MAP-21 Reauthorization

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