WASHINGTON – House Republicans called for a brief extension of highway and mass transit funding Monday night to prevent a reduction in scheduled construction as early as this summer.
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The legislation, which is expected to come up for a vote this week, calls for $8 billion to keep the programs funded through Dec. 18.
The money to pay for the extension would come mostly from a series of changes to promote tax compliance. The bill also includes a $90 million tax cut for the producers of liquefied national gas and liquefied petroleum gas.
The House measure does not provide for the renewal of the Export-Import Bank, a controversial provision likely to be added when the Senate debates its version of the legislation.
While the legislation includes only enough funds to permit construction through mid-December, the two lawmakers who circulated the proposal said it would provide more time to work toward a six-year bill.
"We urge all members who want some long-sought stability in our highway and transit programs to support this critical extension," said Reps. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Bill Schuster, R-Pa. Ryan chairs the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, while Schuster is head of the highway committee.
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Republicans have ruled out raising the federal gas tax to come up with more money for road and mass transit construction, meaning lawmakers must look elsewhere at a time when the backlog of needed repairs continues to grow while the states also seek funds for new construction.
Further complicating the issue is the fate of the Export-Import Bank, which provides federal backing for U.S. firms selling products overseas.
The bank enjoys lopsided support in both houses of Congress, but many House conservatives oppose its existence, saying it amounts to crony capitalism because it helps some companies and not others.
Supporters of the Export-Import Bank long ago decided to try and use the highway bill as a way to prevail, since it is viewed as a must-pass measure before lawmakers leave on a month-long vacation beginning in early August.
The lawmakers also said the tax cut for liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas would bring them in line on an energy-equivalent basis with the federal levy on diesel and gasoline.