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Tax Reform Remains Possible Funding Source for HTF

The likely successor to outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that passing a highway bill is among his top priorities.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said on the TV program Morning Joe that "The fundamental change I'm going to make as Speaker, we're going to get the highway bill done."

The current surface transportation authorization expires Oct. 29, meaning the House has limited time to tackle a bill. Most experts believe that Congress will pass a short-term extension of the current authorization to give the House more time to develop its bill. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing to markup draft legislation.

The Senate in June passed a six-year bill known as the DRIVE Act. However, the Senate bill only included enough funding, $275 billion, to pay for three years of programs.

When challenged on whether his statements about passing a highway bill were simply political rhetoric, McCarthy said, "If we pass a highway bill with tax reform at the same time, that's policy. That changes the inversion process. That means more money comes back to America."

He went on to add, "That puts a six-year highway bill onto the floor and starts moving and building roads that we need in American infrastructure."

McCarthy said the House's six-year transportation bill would not increase the federal gas tax. Instead, funding would come from restructuring the tax code. He added that the House bill would include program reforms to speed project delivery and reduces federal environmental regulations.

"We're going to find a bill done next month that is a six-year highway bill," McCarthy said.

Meanwhile, House and Senate negotiations over a proposed international tax overhaul continued as legislators acknowledged disagreements over potential revenue amounts that could be used to fund a transportation bill. CQ and Bloomberg both reported that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) was asking for more funding that the bipartisan panel was likely to accept, leaving observers pessimistic that international tax reform could provide enough support for a six-year transportation bill.

The House and Senate were able to agree on a short-term plan for the federal budget Sept. 30 that avoided a government shutdown. The legislation funds the government through Dec. 11.

The full interview with McCarthy is available here.

Source: AASHTO