Transportation chief labels GOP chairman ‘a partner’

Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE said Friday that he considers the chairman of the Republican-led House Transportation Committee a “partner” is the quest to find a solution for the nation’s infrastructure funding woes. 

“Here in Washington, D.C., you don’t often see a duo like us — a Democratic member of the Cabinet and a Republican member of Congress — on the same stage, let alone on the same side of an issue. But crisis has a way of bringing people together, and a crisis is what we have, ” Foxx said in a blog post on the Transportation Department’s website after a recent joint appearance with Rep. Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties MORE (R-Pa.). 

Foxx and Shuster have been making joint appearances lately to rally support for an extension of transportation funding measure is currently scheduled to expire in May. 

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Lawmakers are scrambling to come up with a way to pay for an extension of the measure, which requires about a $16 billion-per-year infusion of cash to maintain current infrastructure spending levels. 

The Obama administration has proposed a four-year, $478 billion transportation bill that relies largely on revenue from taxing corporate overseas profits. Republicans have indicated they are open to the proposal, known as “repatriation,” but only if participation for companies is not mandatory.  

Shuster has not endorsed the Obama administration’s transportation proposal, which would tax all overseas profits at a 14 percent rate, but he has said that passing a long-term term extension of the infrastructure measure should be a “priority” for Congress and repatriation is the most likely way to pay for it.  

“It’s one of our committee’s top priorities and it should be a top priority for the nation,” Shuster said in a hearing about the infrastructure funding problem this week. 

“We are actively working together with ... both sides of the aisle, working with our leadership in the House and the Senate and the Ways and Means Committee and others to figure out the funding issues,” Shuster continued. 

The traditional source of transportation funding has been revenue collected from the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax. The gas tax has not been increased since 1993, however, and increases in car fuel efficiency have sapped its purchasing power. 

The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year, but the gas tax only collects $34 billion annually at its current rate. Lawmakers have been reluctant to ask drivers to pay more at the pump, so they have been forced to turn to other areas of the federal budget to close the gap in recent years. 

Some lawmakers have begun discussing the possibility of passing a temporary extension of the infrastructure funding with the deadline looming in two months and no consensus funding source in sight. 

Foxx said Friday that he thought it is still possible for lawmakers to craft a longer transportation funding measure. 

“I understand there’s a lot of reason to be skeptical about passing a long-term transportation bill. We’ve had many false starts before, and for some, it's difficult to believe this time will be different,” he wrote. 

“But as the person in charge of overseeing this nation’s transportation system, I know this time has to be different. It must,” Foxx continued. “We are rapidly approaching a point where we will no longer be able to prepare our transportation system for the next generation. Instead, we’ll just have to manage its decline.” 

Foxx said his relationship with Shuster will be helpful in figuring out a source of funding to solve the infrastructure funding problem. 

“The one bright spot is that folks like Chairman Shuster aren’t just aware of this problem; they’re committed to solving it. Not just with regard to surface transportation, but with regard to rail and to aviation reauthorization,” he wrote. “And I very much look forward to working with him on all of those issues.”