Sen. Susan Collins, who is part of a group of senators announcing a bipartisan infrastructure proposal that includes $579 billion in new spending, said Sunday that the agreement, if approved, will neither include a gas tax increase and it won't undo former President Donald Trump's 2017 tax reform bill.
Instead, the Maine Republican told CBS' "Face the Nation," the legislation will be funded through an infrastructure financing authority, by repurposing some unspent COVID-19 relief funding, and by enacting a provision to tax people who own electric vehicles.
"The implementation of an infrastructure financing authority, that is very similar to the state revolving funds that we used for water and sewer projects, and is a bipartisan proposal that was first put forth by Sens. Mark Warner [D-Va.]and Roy Blunt [R-Mo.]," said Collins.
Meanwhile, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package enacted in March had restrictions on what the funding could be used for, but it could finance "water, sewer (and) broadband," said Collins. "We could make it more flexible so it could be used for infrastructure projects."
Meanwhile, charging owners of electric vehicles would require them to "pay their fair share of using our roads and bridges. Right now, they are literally free riders because they're not paying any gas tax."
Collins said she thinks the bipartisan agreement will work where agreement could not be reached on a Republican counterproposal because, mostly, it is bipartisan, as President Joe Biden has been seeking.
"We have five Republicans and five Democrats who got together to hammer out the framework for a targeted, responsible infrastructure package," she said. "One way that it differs is that it includes provisions for resiliency, for strengthening the materials that we use to build our roads and bridges and to strengthen our electrical infrastructure. It includes some energy provisions that are important to the administration and to many of our members as well."
There have been some states who are objecting to using COVID funds for infrastructure, but Collins said she has also talked to governors who are enthusiastic about the prospect.
"When you have a state like California which has an enormous surplus, and yet we're giving billions of additional dollars to that state, I think we can find room to repurpose some of this money," said Collins. "When you look at what has been spent, there is literally hundreds of billions of dollars in the pipeline, going back to the initial CARES Act that was passed in March of last year. We have put an enormous amount of money, and rightfully so, into fighting COVID. Last year we had five bipartisan bills. And this year President Biden added another $1.9 trillion that included a lot of funding that was not directly for fighting COVID."
The bipartisan proposal, Collins added, focuses on traditional infrastructure, not on calls from Biden and other Democrats to include nontraditional items like child care and eldercare, which proponents say are needed to benefit job seekers.
She said she agrees that a look must be taken at barriers to the workforce, including the need for more home healthcare services, but "they are not infrastructure, and they should be considered separately."
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