Speaking to reporters yesterday, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) argued that both Congress and President Obama lack the political will to increase federal fuel taxes to pay for funding the next highway bill.
At a Capitol Hill briefing with reporters, the influential congressman said that “pretty much everybody in this town has come to the conclusion that repatriation is where the dollars are," per a news report posted by The Hill, adding that there’s “no willing in this Congress or in the administration to do anything with adjusting user fees or taxes."
On the other hand, according to The Hill report, Shuster remarked that other funding mechanisms are less weighted down with political baggage. In particular, he pointed to repatriation— the policy buzzword for taxing overseas corporate revenue. Shuster noted that one form or another of repatriation has already been floated by both parties.
"The president wants to do tax reform,” Shuster reportedly said. “The House wants to do tax reform. The Senate wants to tax reform… Folks who've been around here a long time know anything on taxes takes a long time."
That being said, Shuster admitted that with clock running down on the May 31st deadline for reauthorization of surface transportation, yet another short-term patch for highway funding may have to be hammered out. He noted that it likely would be after the Congressional recess for the Easter holiday before that decision will be made.
Earlier this week, the House T&I Chairman did not mention that possibility during his opening remarks at the committee’s second hearing on reauthorizing surface-transportation legislation.
Shuster essentially stated that the House, Senate and the Obama administration were on the same page as they were all “talking about the need for a long-term surface transportation bill.” He also said he that felt confident we will get there and make the investment needed."
By contrast, at the same hearing Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) argued for swiftly passing a short-term patch that would ensure funds keep flowing to highway and bridge projects through this year.
“We need some sort of commitment from the federal government in the next week or two or three or we will see a dramatic drop-off in construction activity this summer,” DeFazio implored. “I feel a tremendous sense of urgency” about passing a short-term bill."