U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx pushed for a $478 billion transportation spending bill endorsed by the Obama administration today, saying “we ought to be embarrassed as a country” about the state of the nation’s roads, bridges and mass transit.
Foxx is urging Congress to approve the six-year package, with its nearly half-trillion-dollar estimated cost, before a May 31 deadline threatens to slow new infrastructure projects to a standstill if some kind of funding continuation package doesn’t materialize.
“Lawmakers have talked about passing a $10 billion patch to extend transportation funding until the end of the year,” The Hill reported Friday, “but Foxx said temporary extensions are not sufficient enough to address the nation’s infrastructure needs.”
The White House plan calls for funding through the repatriation of corporate taxes on past overseas earnings, a plan that essentially amounts to an amnesty window for corporations that accept, going forward, a 6.5 percent tax rate on holdings they’ve been sheltering abroad.
“The nonpartisan JCT [Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation] has said that a tax holiday, as repatriation plans have been referred to, would generate about $20 billion in revenue initially,” The Hill reported in January. “[An] analysis said the plan would ultimately cost the federal government about $96 billion, as companies would have more incentive to keep their profits abroad and wait for another tax holiday.”
The spending plan comes as an effort to bolster the raising of new transportation funds, which currently rely on the federal government’s gas tax — a tax that generates around $35 billion each year. Congress is considering a temporary $10 billion extension of this year’s transportation funding, but Foxx said that doesn’t solve anything in the long term.
“It seems to me to be a bit of a wasted exercise to spend a lot of energy trying to come up with enough to get us through December, when you could apply the same work to get us a six-year bill,” he said.