Congressional negotiations to tax the overseas earnings of U.S.-based multinational corporations to support the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) appeared to hit an impasse Oct. 2. Senior members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, facing an Oct. 29 expiration deadline on the latest short-term extension of the highway/transit program, have been talking over the proposal for months.

House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has reportedly been told by Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to move forward on the policy portion of a surface transportation reauthorization bill without revenue from international tax reform. This likely means the T&I Committee will produce a proposal with investment levels similar to the Senate-passed DRIVE Act—although with a shorter duration (likely three years instead of six years).

The sticking point on international tax reform appears to be less about how such a new mechanism would work and more about the level of investment it would support. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the Obama Administration have been arguing for increases in transportation investment well above the 10 percent highway program growth and 13 percent transit boost that would be provided in the first three years of the DRIVE Act.

Schumer told ARTBA earlier this week a deal was not looking good. He specifically cited Ryan’s reticence to back his (Schumer’s) investment levels.

Ryan and Shuster have repeatedly referred to the Senate HTF revenue package as a fallback threshold if the international tax reform talks stalled. If they follow through with that plan, the T&I Committee is still expected to produce its own reauthorization policy bill, as opposed to the House simply taking up the Senate bill.

Regardless of these developments, the clock continues to tick.  ARTBA will continue to urge the House to advance its reauthorization process well before the Oct. 29 deadline to help ensure enactment of a multi-year surface transportation bill before the end of 2015.