to outline plan to fix crumbling roads, rail, bridges
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[February 26, 2014]
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack
Obama will fly to St. Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday to propose a
four-year, $302 billion plan to create jobs by fixing the nation's
crumbling roads, bridges, rail and transportation infrastructure.
Congress faces a September 30 deadline to renew federal funding
for transportation programs, a deadline that has made state
governors concerned about planning projects that typically run
through September and into the fall months.
Obama will propose ending some tax breaks to provide a one-time $150
billion infusion of cash into transportation funding, the White
"This vision will show how we can invest in the things we need to
grow and create jobs by closing unfair tax loopholes, lowering tax
rates, and making the system more fair," the White House said in a
statement previewing his speech, set for 3:05 p.m. EST (2005 GMT).
Obama will first tour an operations and maintenance center for Metro
Transit, the system of buses, light rail and commuter trains serving
the Minneapolis-St. Paul "Twin Cities" region.
Obama has long called for using savings from tax reform to replenish
the Highway Trust Fund, which relies on an 18.4-cents-a-gallon tax
on gasoline to pay for the federal share of spending on roads. But
it seems unlikely that a major tax overhaul could pass Congress in
an election year.
"While the president will show how to fully pay for his proposal in
this way, he will also make clear that he is open to ideas and wants
to work with Congress in a bipartisan way to get this done," the
White House said.
The gas tax, which raises about $35 billion a year, has not been
raised in two decades, and the trust fund has fallen short of needs.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the fund could run out of
money as soon as August.
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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO labor federation have
proposed increasing the fuel tax, but Republicans in Congress are
averse to tax hikes.
In St. Paul, Obama also will launch a competition for $600 million
in grants for transportation projects through a program that
leverages funds from the private sector and state and local
governments. The spending has already been approved by Congress.
It is the sixth round of grants for the program, called
Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER),
which so far has given $3.5 billion to 270 projects.
The White House said this round of grants will give priority to
"projects that make it easier for Americans to get to jobs, school,
and other opportunities, promote neighborhood revitalization and
business expansion, and reconnect neighborhoods that are unnaturally
divided by physical barriers such as highways and railroads."
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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