House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster(R-Pa.) said Thursday that an infrastructure bill could be ready "closer to the summer" as he begins the bill-writing process following President Trump's infrastructure overhaul rollout.
[ MALLORY SHELBOURNE | February 15, 2018 | The Hill]
“Peter DeFazio and I are working on a bill together. And based on our conversations at the White House yesterday, I think there’s going to be an opportunity,” Shuster told The Hill, referring to committee's ranking member.
“But there’s challenges on our side. There’s going to be challenges on the other side, so we’ll work through the process.”
Shuster said Wednesday that he would begin working with DeFazio on legislation after the two attended a bipartisan meeting at the White House to discuss Trump’s recently unveiled infrastructure framework.
The White House on Monday officially released a 55-page proposal for Trump's infrastructure overhaul. The plan puts forth a framework for lawmakers to craft legislation for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package that would focus on public-private partnerships and funding from state and local governments.
Shuster has repeatedly said that any infrastructure bill must have bipartisan support and that all options are on the table for crafting legislation. He has also referenced the gas tax, noting it has not been raised in 25 years.
Shuster after the meeting this week said Trump is still “open” to increasing the tax, while Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said the president supported a 25-cent hike during the discussion.
“It is a user fee,” Shuster said Thursday of the gas tax. “It’s not deficit spending. Today, we’re deficit spending on this stuff.”
Revenue from the 18.4-cent tax goes into the Highway Trust Fund to pay for road projects. But that levy has not been raised in 25 years, eroding the fund’s purchasing power over time.
“It’s going to take presidential leadership,” Shuster said of any effort to move forward with a tax hike. He added that Speaker Ryan (R-Wis.) “is not warm and fuzzy,” about a tax hike option.
Industry groups have pushed for an increase to the tax to boost the Highway Trust Fund, which is heading for another shortfall at the end of 2020, but that move remains unpopular among Republicans.
Shuster, who is retiring at the end of his current term, said Wednesday that lawmakers would likely have until July to get some sort of infrastructure effort done, but added that there is no set timeline for authoring a bill.
“We can get something done in fairly short order I believe,” he said.