Senate Finance Committee Transportation Funding Ideas Released

With the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) balance rapidly diminishing, Congress must act soon or risk a significant slow down in transportation projects during the important summer construction season. To this end, the Senate Finance Committee appears ready to mark up a bill on Thursday (called the “Preserving America’s Transit and Highways Act of 2014”), and this morning the Joint Committee on Taxation released it’s score of the proposal.

The bill would raise approximately $9 billion, which is enough to extend the program through the end of 2014. Most of the proposed pay-fors are not user fees or transportation related:

  • Modification to the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax – increase cap on heavy vehicle use tax to $1,100 ($1.4 billion over 10 years)
  • Mortgage reporting ($2.2 billion over 10 years)
  • Clarification of 6-year statute of limitations in case of overstatement of basis ($1.3 billion over 10 years)
  • Revocation or denial of passport in case of certain unpaid taxes ($0.4 billion over 10 years)
  • Modifications of required distribution rules for pension plans ($3.7 billion over 10 years)

This is a lot of legislative speak, but the short version is that the proposal will likely be attacked for using “budget gimmicks” to offset the increase in funding for transportation projects. Since Congress is generally unwilling to directly raise user fees (ie. the gas tax) in the near term, they are left finding unrelated provisions to keep the program going, which is certainly preferable to allowing the program to default.

The JCT score can be found HERE, and the explanation text is HERE.

Update: A slightly more plain spoken description of these provisions is available HERE from the Finance Committee’s website.

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