By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on a Democratic plan to boost infrastructure spending in early July that aims to fix crumbling roads and highways and reduce carbon pollution.
On Wednesday, Democrats, who control the House, introduced a $494 billion five-year surface transportation bill that would provide $319 billion to fix 47,000 structurally deficient bridges and make other repairs, $105 billion for mass transit and invest nearly $30 billion in passenger railroad Amtrak and rail infrastructure.
In January, Democratic lawmakers proposed $760 billion in total infrastructure spending over five years. Surface transportation is the largest component of the plan.
“For decades, Congress has repeatedly ignored the calls for an overhaul and instead simply poured money into short-term patches. The result? We’re still running our economy on an inefficient, 1950s-era system,” House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio said.
Transportation Committee Republicans said both parties must work together to enact new spending and criticized the plan’s “outsized funding increases for urban areas.”
In April 2019, President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders had agreed to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure, without hashing out a way to pay for it. Weeks later, Trump abruptly canceled a follow-up meeting after criticizing congressional investigations.
With a presidential election looming, many doubt Congress will be able to tackle infrastructure this year. Lawmakers face a Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize surface transportation spending.
A Senate panel in July 2019 authorized $287 billion in government spending over five years on surface transportation, a 27% jump, but Congress has not agreed on how to pay for it.
Congress abandoned the practice of largely requiring road users to pay for road repairs and has not hiked the federal gas tax since 1993. Since 2008, Congress has transferred about $141 billion in general revenues to the Highway Trust Fund. To maintain existing spending levels, Congress will need to find $107 billion over five years, government auditors say.
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