By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional affairs, ARTBA
While congressional leaders work to define their plans to deal with the pending July 31 expiration of federal highway and public transportation programs, rank and file members of the House of Representatives continue to push for a pathway toward a long-term Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solution. Congressman Tom Rice (R-S.C.) July 8 introduced legislation similar to ARTBA’s “Getting Beyond Gridlock” proposal. It would increase the federal motor fuels tax by 10 cents-per-gallon and index it to inflation. The legislation would combine the fuels tax increase with an offsetting income tax cut for the most Americans. ARTBA worked with Congressman Rice on this legislation over the past month and sent a July 10 letter supporting his efforts.
Separately, Congressmen Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) at a July 10 press conference called on House leadership to allow for what’s known as a “Queen of the Hill” vote process when the HTF solvency issue is dealt with later this month. This process would allow for votes on any and all revenue solutions for the HTF that a member brings to the floor, with the one that passes with the most votes becoming the position the House of Representatives. This procedure, while used sparingly, was invoked earlier this year to pass the House FY 2016 budget resolution.
It is anticipated, however, that House leaders will coalesce around a plan advocated by House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to extend the programs through the end of the year and generate $8 billion to keep the trust fund operational during that period. Ryan claims this additional time will allow his panel to develop legislation that would generate a one-time source of revenue by lowering the tax on overseas earnings of U.S.-based multinational corporations. The “repatriation” concept was also endorsed last week by a bipartisan group of Senate Finance Committee members led by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Ryan has long argued revenues from such a plan should support a six-year reauthorization bill.
Details of the House plans are expected to be released next week.