House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tells The Daily Signal that a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund is the likely solution before the measure expires by the end of the month.
“We’re trying to find a bipartisan ‘pay for,’” McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a sit-down interview. “We might have to do a short-term one to where we can find a longer version of being able to move it forward.”
The current highway fund has been in place for two years and includes more than $100 billion for transportation projects.
It is set to expire May 31st.
The Highway Trust Fund allocates federal money to highway and transit projects across the country.
The goal is to get a bipartisan six-year deal, McCarthy said, but it has to be paid for.
The struggle is how to pay for it.
Republicans are pushing for the process known as repatriation, which would tax corporate profits overseas as a way of paying for the longer term bill.
It would be a way of bringing more American businesses back to the United States, an idea McCarthy is pushing.
“A unique area of where we can go here is we could have tax reform,” McCarthy said. “There will be savings and others inside tax reform because there’ll be new revenue coming into America because if we changed repatriation and people who will bring their money back to America, lowering the rate, there’s an opportunity there to have a long term highway bill to fix our bridges and builds our roads. But one of the concerns I have is you have to make sure you can build them. You pass a bill and it takes a decade for a road to build. That’s not right … we should make sure these roads get built fast.”
Many Democratic lawmakers and transportation backers say that raising the gas tax is the most obvious solution but McCarthy says that’s a non-starter.
“I don’t see a gas tax passing politically so I don’t see that being viable at this moment.”
At this point, a short-term extension seems like the most plausible option.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is trying to see if a $10 billion short-term fix would be viable for now. That may keep money flowing to infrastructure projects through the rest of this year.
As it stands now, the highway fund is set to run out of money sometime in early summer. A Heritage Foundation analysis shows that the fund will run a cumulative deficit of $180 billion over the next ten years if the current spending levels continue.
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