President calls for four-year, $302 billion transportation bill

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 2/26/2014

President Obama may not be able to campaign for “four more years” as president, but he can propose four more years for transportation. He did just that on Wednesday, Feb. 26, calling for a four-year, $302 billion investment in the nation’s roads, bridges, railways and transit.

The current transportation program, known as MAP-21, is scheduled to expire Sept. 30. Members of Congress are drafting new bill language – and some are hoping for a five- or six-year investment rather than a four-year plan. The longer the duration of the bill, the more certainty it would provide to states to plan and carry out transportation projects that receive federal funding.

Obama and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx also announced a new round of competitive TIGER grants, calling on state, regional and local governments to compete for $600 million. TIGER stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, and the program originated with the 2009 “stimulus bill.”

The question on everyone’s mind heading into the reauthorization process is how America will pay for investments in transportation.

In Obama’s latest proposal, he calls for the closing of “unfair” tax loopholes.

The administration continues to dismiss a fuel-tax increase as a possible funding mechanism.

Congressional transportation leaders, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., have also recently dismissed fuel taxes as a hopeful pay-for.

Boxer is promoting a wholesale tax on oil production as a possible way to pay for transportation and has not ruled out a possible tax on vehicle miles traveled, or VMT.

Shuster has his sights on proposed budget reforms that could set aside more money for transportation.

The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., proposed a simplification of the IRS Tax Code on Wednesday that could free up some needed revenue.

House leadership is confident they’ll be voting on a transportation bill sometime this summer, while Senate leadership is on an expedited plan to have parts of the bill on the table in April.

OOIDA continues to educate lawmakers on issues important to truckers in the future bill such as highway and bridge funding and motor carrier safety programs.

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