‘Infrastructure week’ kicks off amid highway bill uncertainty

Transportation advocates are planning a week of events to highlight the need for investing in the nation’s infrastructure amid mounting uncertainty about the future of federal road and transit funding. 

The current transportation funding measure is scheduled to expire on May 31, and lawmakers are struggling to come up with a way to pay for an extension. 

With the looming deadline as a backdrop, Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will appear at events this week to push lawmakers to take up a six year, $478 billion infrastructure bill that was proposed by the Obama administration. 

{mosads}The Obama administration says its transportation bill would put an end to a string of temporary infrastructure funding extensions that advocates say have weakened the nation’s road and transit networks because they prohibit states from completing long construction projects. 

The administration’s proposal is paid for largely through a funding mechanism that relies on taxing corporate profits that are stored overseas. The process, known as repatriation, would impose a 14 percent tax rate on foreign profits to generate money to help pay for the transportation funding bill. 

Republicans have said they would be open to a repatriation plan, but only if it is offered on a voluntary basis as a “tax holiday” at a lower rate. 

The disagreement has stalled a debate over transportation funding that has dominated talk in Washington for most of the year. 

The typical source of transportation funding has been revenue that is collected by the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax. 

The gas tax, which is currently 18.4 cents-per-gallon, typically brings in about $34 billion. But the federal government typically spends about $50 billion on transportation projects. 

The gas tax has not been increased since 1993, and improvements in the fuel efficiently of U.S. autos has sapped much of its purchasing power. 

Transportation advocates have pushed to increase the gas tax to close the infrastructure funding gap, but lawmakers have been reluctant to ask drivers to pay more at the pump. 

The Department of Transportation has said, meanwhile, that its Highway Trust Fund will run out of money in late July or early August unless Congress comes to an agreement about an infrastructure funding extension. 

Transportation Secretary Foxx is scheduled to appear at events in Washington, D.C., Tennessee, California and Iowa this week for “Infrastructure Week”  to put pressure on them to do so. 

Tags Anthony Foxx Gas Tax Highway bill Highway Trust Fund Joe Biden MAP-21 Reauthorization Repatriation

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