As published by Tom Curry and David Harrison in CQ.
President Barack Obama this morning will unveil a budget request that includes $238 billion in one-time new tax revenue to be devoted to a six-year highway bill.
That money, combined with expected gas tax receipts, would keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent and pay for new construction programs. The administration is calling for a $478 billion six-year highway bill.
Today’s proposal is more ambitious and detailed than the Grow America Act that the administration released last year. That $302 billion effort would have kept the Highway Trust Fund afloat for four years and did not include a detailed discussion of revenue-raising measures.
Today’s budget will call for a new 14 percent tax on past corporate profits held overseas, estimated to amount to roughly $2 trillion. Those profits are now taxed only once they are returned to the United States. The White House would tax them overseas to generate the $238 billion in one-time new money.
The plan also calls for a minimum 19 percent tax on all future corporate profits overseas.
The proposal reinforces the administration’s desire to link transportation funding to a corporate tax overhaul. Many transportation advocates and congressional Democrats say they would prefer to raise the gas tax. But Obama has said he considers a gas tax increase politically impossible in the new Republican Congress.
House Ways and Means Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said Sunday he saw room to compromise with the White House on taxes.
“We want to work with this administration to see if we can find common ground on certain aspects of tax reform,” he said on “Meet the Press.” “And we want to exhaust that possibility. And if and when the possibility is exhausted then we will put out what we think ought to be done.”
You can read more about the president’s budget plan here.
AFL-CIO Reacts. Ed Wytkind, the head of the AFL-CIO’s transportation trades department, said he was optimistic about the president’s plan, but he still favors an increase in the gas tax, saying it provides long-term certainty to highway programs.
“We’ve always been concerned about not letting bogged down debate and negotiations over tax reform delay the inevitable crisis we face with moving a Highway Trust Fund bill that actually funds the transit and highway programs long-term,” he said. “I don’t think we can do anything about the fact that the transportation infrastructure needs of the nation have become integrated with those discussions.”
“We’ve endorsed a gas tax increase and obviously we think that’s the cleanest and most reliable way to produce the investments that are needed, although that’s not meeting with a lot of support from Capitol Hill,” he added.
Wytkind said he hopes Obama’s proposal could help lawmakers agree on a multi-year highway bill. The proposal “shows the administration is serious about trying to move this conversation forward and hopefully get it to the point where the discussion isn’t about if we’re going to do it but how we’re going to do it and that’s a really positive development,” he said.