June 3, 2015

From InfraAmericas

By Eugene Gilligan

President Barack Obama on 29 May signed legislation authorizing the Highway Trust Fund to provide money for transportation projects until July 31.

The law, known as the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, is the latest of 33 short-term funding measures passed in order to finance the trust fund since 2008. 

Some legislators have introduced bills to finance the trust fund by raising the gasoline tax.  Others have introduced legislation to finance the trust fund through the repatriation of profits earned by US corporations overseas. 

None of the bills have garnered widespread support. 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has said that the House will not support a hike in the gasoline tax. Bills introduced by Rep. John Delaney (D-Md) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) that have repatriation as a funding method for transportation projects have not advanced in either chamber. 

Ryan has also maintained that any repatriation plan must be part of an overhaul of the US tax code.

Long-term longshot
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said at an event in Washington, D.C. on 1 June that Congress should use the two-month extension to draft a long-term transportation bill. Observers, however, are skeptical that a long-term bill will materialize by the 31 July deadline.

“It is highly unlikely that Congress will pass a long-term bill by 31 July, with all the other issues it is grappling with,” Marcus Lemon, shareholder at Polsinelli and former Chief Counsel to the Federal Highway Administration said. “As in past cycles, we can expect multiple extensions until a final bill is agreed upon.”

Lemon said that, while all sides largely agree that tolling, TIFIA, and P3s should be part of the transportation funding solution, there is little consensus on how to pay for the trust fund. The major issues remained centered on whether repatriation, some other method, or a combination of methods should be used to fund the long-term bill, Lemon said.

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