The chances of Congress passing a transport funding reauthorization bill by the current deadline of May 31 are virtually nonexistent, and unless action is taken by year's end it may be 2017 before the issue is taken up again in earnest, the general counsel of the shipper group NASSTRAC said yesterday.
John Cutler said there is bound to be another extension of the law that funds highway and mass transit projects to take it beyond the end of May deadline. If so, that would mark the 33rd temporary extension in the past six years.
Cutler told the group at its annual shipper conference and expo in Orlando that election-year imperatives in 2016 could easily put transport funding legislation on the back burner next year. That is why a bill needs to reach President Obama's desk for signature by the end of 2015, Cutler said. If not, transport and infrastructure stakeholders will likely be waiting until 2017, at the earliest, for the issue to regain serious legislative traction, he said.
The Administration has proposed a six-year, $478 billion funding bill, half of which would be financed by a one-time 14-percent tax on the repatriation of foreign earnings held abroad by U.S. corporations. The current estimate of those holdings is $2 trillion, and the levy to return them is 35 percent. However, Cutler said there's little chance the White House's version will make it through Congress. He added there is little appetite in Congress for a special repatriation tax that isn't part of a debate over comprehensive tax reform. There is no chance of broad-based tax reform legislation being passed by May 31, Cutler said.