House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp on Tuesday proposed a $10.9 billion plan to extend transportation funding through May 31, 2015, aimed at averting cutbacks for construction projects that would otherwise start in August.
Camp's plan would raise $6.4 billion through pension fund revenue changes, $3.5 billion through customs user fees and the transfer of $1 billion from a fund used to clean up leaking underground storage tanks, according to a senior Republican aide.
The fund has sunk to critical levels due to lower revenues from the gas tax as a result of technology producing better mileage rates over the past decade.
The main plank in the plan from Camp, a Michigan Republican, would raise revenue to offset costs by allowing employers to delay contributions to their employee pension plans. Delaying the tax-deductible contributions raises corporate taxable income and boosts revenue to the federal government.
Senate Finance Committee members are pursuing their own approach with just weeks before the highway trust fund is projected to run critically low of money.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, late last month said he was pursuing a bipartisan deal that the House could accept to bring a speedier end to the funding dilemma. He said earlier today that he’s still pursuing a bipartisan agreement with Republicans on his panel.
The two-year financing authorization for the trust fund expires Sept. 30, though the fund is projected to run dry by the end of August and federal payments to states will slow by Aug. 1, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said.
The Obama administration claims 700,000 jobs would be lost
if the trust fund goes bust.
“There are a lot of transportation jobs that pay good wages,” Wyden said. “If you had a transportation shutdown here you'd end harming some of those middle class people who actually get wages that can support families.”
Trucking industry newspaper Transport Topics reports a slew of government groups are gearing up to put the pressure
"As the owners and operators of 97 percent of the nation’s interconnected surface transportation systems, state and local governments know that a long-term vision and funding certainty are best for our country’s infrastructure," a letter sent to congressional leaders Monday stated.
"Jobs, infrastructure projects and the safe and timely movement of freight are now at risk because of the impending insolvency of the HTF."
Those signing the letter were the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Governors Association, Council of State Governments, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors and the International City/County Management Association, the trade paper said.
"Federal inaction and short-term extensions create uncertainty at the state and local levels, which hinders transformative transportation investments and prevents our nation’s economy from moving forward," the letter said.
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