Republican proposes $10.9 billion transport funding extension
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[July 09, 2014]
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Ways and
Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp on Tuesday unveiled a $10.9 billion
plan to extend U.S. transportation funding through May 31, 2015, a
measure that would avert an August slowdown of funding for construction
Camp's plan would raise $6.4 billion through pension fund-related
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.
With the Highway Trust Fund rapidly dwindling, the U.S. Department
of Transportation is planning to sharply reduce the amount of
federal money it distributes to states to fund road, bridge and rail
construction projects on Aug. 1.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said this would
result in a 30 percent reduction in available transportation funds,
causing delays in projects and layoffs of hundreds of thousands of
Camp's plan, which has elements similar to those being considered
for a companion measure in the U.S. Senate, would be a temporary fix
for highway funding that would push a longer-term solution into next
year, after a new Congress is elected in November.
Heritage Action for America, an influential conservative group,
quickly criticized the plan as wasteful. The group contends that the
Obama administration is exaggerating the economic impact of the
trust fund depletion.
"This spend now, pay later bailout is not serious. The
Republican-controlled House should not succumb to the Obama
administrationís reckless rhetoric," said Heritage Action spokesman
The Camp proposal would employ a tactic known as "pension
smoothing," which allows companies to delay contributions to
employee pension plans and effectively raises corporate profits and
taxable incomes, thus producing more revenue for the U.S. Treasury.
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This was used to help pay for the last highway spending measure due
to expire Sept. 30 and was considered by Democrats for a plan to
extend long-term unemployment benefits, which has never come to a
vote this year.
Camp said in a statement that his proposals can win support from
both Democrats and Republicans and buys more time for a longer-term
highway funding solution.
"This is the only package with a proven history of getting big
bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate," Camp said, adding
that a longer extension would have required much more difficult
Lawmakers from both parties have shown virtually no desire to raise
the fuel taxes that feed the Highway Trust Fund. They have not been
increased since 1993 and are proving inadequate to fund
transportation projects due to improved vehicle fuel economy, fewer
miles traveled and construction cost inflation.
(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Sandra Maler and David
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