Congress' infrastructure funding efforts remain fragmented
- As federal lawmakers struggle to come up with a cohesive plan on how to increase infrastructure funding, Republicans are contemplating splitting the effort into multiple bills, while Democrats want to roll back some of the tax reform measures passed last year in order to pay for the repairs and upgrades needed to bring U.S. public assets up to par, according to Reuters.
- Taking the wind out of President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Congress would split the plan into five or six bills, according to The Hill, tackling Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization and omnibus spending first, the latter of which Ryan referred to as a "down payment on the infrastructure plan." Meanwhile, Democrats have offered their own $1 trillion infrastructure program, the Associated Press reported, which they propose to finance by voiding certain provisions of the tax reform bill.
- Many lawmakers and business groups are pushing for a federal gas tax hike to pay for new surface transportation projects, but Ryan told a group gathered at a Home Depot in Atlanta that an increase was a non-starter.
Ryan's schedule for churning out several infrastructure bills does not match with what Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, told The Hill last month. Shuster said he and the committee's ranking member, Peter DeFazio (R-Ore.), were working on a bipartisan bill that could be ready by summer.
Most lawmakers agree on what needs to be done – repair and upgrades of roads and bridges, modernization of seaports and airports, work to make drinking water safe, school construction and renovations, robust mass transit systems, and more. However, how to pay for those projects is the point of contention.
Democrats have been against an increase of the gas tax in order to fund infrastructure, because they say it targets working-class Americans. Nevertheless, in recent months, groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have started advocating for a 25-cent-per-gallon tax hike, which, according to the Chamber, would raise $375 billion for infrastructure projects during the next 10 years.
Around the same time, Trump also made public comments about a possible 25-cent increase in the federal gas tax, even after Democrats shot down the administration's mere suggestion of a 7-cent hike in October of last year.
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