Long-Term Highway Bill Heads To President For First Time In A Decade

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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Just one day before federal transportation spending was set to expire, the first long-term highway bill passed by Congress in over a decade is headed to the president’s desk.

After weeks of negotiations, the $305 billion measure received overwhelming support, passing the Senate in an 83-16 vote, and is expected to be signed by President Obama by the end of week.

The bill allocates $205 billion to be used toward highway spending and $48 billion toward other transit projects.

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’s budget will be split from its National Network program, which will receive $2.6 billion and $5.5 billion respectively.

A policy rider attached to the legislation reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank, which provides taxpayer-backed financing to foreign companies purchasing American goods, until September 2019.

Critics of the agency argue it promotes corporate welfare and crony capitalism, while proponents say it’s necessary to promote trade and stay globally competitive.

Lawmakers opted not to raise the federal gas tax, which currently stands at 18.4 cents per gallon. Instead opting to fill funding gaps with $19 billion taken from the Federal Reserve’s surplus funds, and lowering the divided payments large banks receive from the Fed from 6 percent to 1.5 percent.

Private tax collection services will also now be used to collect back payments on federal taxes under the legislation.

Another revenue-raising policy rider attached the to legislation is a provision allowing the government to revoke the passports of those owing more than $50,000 in back taxes to the IRS.

The Congressional Budget Office projects the measure will reduce the federal deficit by $71 billion over the course of the next decade. The last time Congress passed a transportation funding bill lasting more than two years was in 2005.

“Many said a multi-year highway bill would never pass the Senate, but we proved them wrong – and we proved it could actually pass by a wide, bipartisan margin,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement following the vote.

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