House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, “Moving Forward Framework”; House Ways and Means Committee, January 29 hearing witnesses’ testimony

House Democrats on January 29 unveiled their framework for a $760 billion infrastructure plan. Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing the same day to examine proposals for funding infrastructure and various “tools” within the Tax Code to encourage investment.

Democratic Infrastructure Framework
Notably, House Democrats’ infrastructure framework, which also contains proposals related to climate change, is considered on Capitol Hill as an opening bid. It is not legislative text, and it does not include any specificities on how to fund infrastructure.

“I think it is really important that we not volunteer a revenue stream until the administration reaches an agreement with us,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said in a January 29 news conference. President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have both expressed a readiness to move forward on infrastructure.

Ways and Means Infrastructure Hearing
Among some of the funding proposals presented during the January 29 hearing, Neal emphasized his preference for tax-preferred bonds. “Tax-preferred bonds are one of our most powerful tools. When we invest in infrastructure, it results in a significant economic multiplier,” Neal said in his opening statement at the hearing. To that end, some witnesses also testified in support of reinstating a program known as Build American Bonds (BABs) on a permanent basis to help finance infrastructure. Neal likewise expressed his support for reinstating BABs.

Additionally, some Democratic lawmakers have discussed raising taxes to help fund infrastructure, namely the federal gas excise tax. Although the move would be met with resistance by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Republicans are particularly vocal in their opposition. The last gas tax increase occurred in 1993.

“Workers who are driving used cars shouldn’t be paying higher taxes at the pump so that the wealthy can claim a tax credit for their $75,000 electric vehicles,” ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Tex., said during the hearing. “Both will drive on roads and bridges but only the blue-collar worker will pay any taxes to maintain them.”

Looking Ahead
Although infrastructure is indeed a priority among congressional tax writers and the Trump administration, the Democratic framework is largely seen as a campaign-related proposal ahead of the 2020 elections, quite similar to Republicans’ talk of “Tax Cuts 2.0.” While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and the U.S. Capitol are certainly eager to address these tax-related issues, it remains to be seen if requisite bipartisan agreement will be reached during an election year and a shortened legislative calendar.