President Barack Obama is pressing Congress for money to repair and modernize U.S. roads, bridges and rail systems as the Highway Trust Fund runs low and proposals to raise revenue are blocked in Congress.
A week before his 2015 budget is released, Obama is reviving his proposals for infrastructure spending with a four-year, $302 billion package of projects. They would be paid for partially by changes in business taxes that would bring in a one-time gain in government revenue of $150 billion.
The president is making his pitch today in St. Paul, Minnesota, the twin city to Minneapolis where an interstate highway bridge collapsed in 2007 and became a symbol for crumbling U.S. infrastructure.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters traveling with the president that the administration wants to get beyond the "Band-Aid" solution of trying to keep patching up roadways, bridges and rail lines.
The issue has become more urgent as the federal Highway Trust Fund, supplied by taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, is at risk of running dry. The Department of Transportation has projected that current demands on the fund will cause it be running a deficit as early as August. State and municipal funding for roads also are under stress.
"We need user-related revenues that are stable, predictable and growing to provide the certainty needed for planning and making capital investments," Janet Kavinoky, executive director of transportation and infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in an e-mail.
The chamber is among the groups backing the higher fuel taxes to help finance infrastructure spending. Republicans lawmaker have said higher fuel taxes won’t pass Congress and Obama has shied away from calling for a raise.
Transportation funding was one of the subjects that Obama discussed yesterday during a private meeting with House Speaker John Boehner.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said today there are no plans to shift general revenue from the Treasury to the trust fund.