By a vote of 17-7 and one present vote, the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 7 approved a list of revenue enhancers to provide the $5.5 billion necessary to fund MAP-21, the Senate’s two-year transportation reauthorization legislation. The vote was largely bipartisan with four Republicans joining the committee Democrats in supporting the measure. A large part of the funding comes from a transfer of $3 billion from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) fund to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and directs to the HTF future revenue from that portion of the fuels tax that currently goes to the LUST fund. LUST is funded from 1/10th of one cent of the federal gas and diesel tax. Other funds credited to the HTF include transfers of revenue from the gas guzzler tax and from future imported car tariffs. The legislation adds another $2.618 billion in general fund transfers to the HTF, which are offset by changes in the tax treatment of inherited IRAs and from other tax code changes. The latest projection by the Congressional Budget Office on HTF revenue and outlays lowered the amount of funds that were necessary to maintain current funding levels as is called for in MAP-21.
The committee discussed a series of amendments. Of note, Sen. Enzi (R-Wyo.) offered an amendment to index the gas tax to inflation, which led to a discussion about the need to raise the gas tax to fund the highway program moving forward. Enzi withdrew the amendment without asking for a vote.
With this action by the Finance Committee, Senate committee action is now completed on the bill. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated he may bring up MAP-21 for debate as early as Feb 8. The first hurdle will be a vote on the motion to proceed. Sixty votes will be needed. If that fails, a cloture vote will be held after two days.