Authorization for the current federal highway program, financed mainly with gasoline taxes, is due to expire this week, which would leave the Highway Trust Fund empty within weeks. Even if it is renewed, federal gas tax revenue isn't keeping up with the demand for construction dollars.
The simplest solution — raising the gas tax — has been stymied by GOP opposition. As a result, lawmakers are left to choose between stopgap measures including one from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell which would cobble together three years' worth of money from a hodgepodge of sources.
But some leading members of the House and Senate and the Obama administration have been working on a way to encourage multinationals to reinvest more of their "locked out" foreign profits here. The plan would include a one-time tax on the estimated $2.1 trillion in profits stashed overseas, which would be directed into the Highway Trust Fund.
Critics complain that it would prompt multinationals to slash U.S. taxes by moving operations out of the country. But the current system already motivates companies to transfer key assets to tax havens. Getting the details of a new system right won't be easy but it's worth holding up the highway bill to give lawmakers and the administration the chance to try.
Los Angeles Times