House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said that his committee will hold a hearing Jan. 29 to examine how to pay for a federal infrastructure package, marking the first significant development in an infrastructure package since the Senate Environment and Public Works committee approved a bill in July.
In making the announcement, Chairman Neal said that infrastructure will be a key priority this year now that the House passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade (HR 5430).
Witnesses for the hearing have not yet been announced.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has said that he expects the committee to put out a bill early this year. However it is up financing committees to find a way to pay for such a bill.
Rep. DeFazio has previously called for increasing the motor fuels taxes as a means of funding infrastructure. Ranking Member Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) has been more reluctant to raise the gas tax, however, endorsing a vehicle miles traveled approach.
In July, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee advanced a five-year, $287 billion surface transportation bill (S 2302) that NATSO supported.
S.2302 would not lift the federal prohibitions on tolling existing interstates or commercializing rest areas to fund infrastructure projects. The bill would, however, authorize $12.5 million per year to fund state and regional pilot programs to test "user-based alternative revenue mechanisms," such as a vehicle miles tax, to motor fuels taxes.
S. 2302 also featured a first-ever Title on climate change. The bill would authorize $10.8 billion over five years for addressing climate issues. This includes establishing a grant program funded at $1 billion over five years for states and localities to build alternative fuel corridors, including electric vehicle charging infrastructure and natural gas refueling stations along designated highway corridors.
The Senate Finance Committee, which is responsible for finding a way to pay for the EPW measure, still needs to add its Title before the bill can go before the full Senate. Additional committees also will need to add sections on transit and safety, among others.
It is unlikely that the Senate will take up infrastructure anytime soon in light of the impeachment trial.
Current surface transportation law expires in September 2020.
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