Bipartisan House group supports muni expansion for infrastructure

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A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers is keeping hope alive for federal infrastructure legislation with a proposal that emphasizes tax-exempt bonds by lifting state volume caps and encouraging public-private partnerships.

The 44-member Problem Solvers Caucus released their plan in advance of Congress reconvening after a week long Memorial Day district work period.

The decision to release the plan signals a resolve on the part of at least some lawmakers to prioritize infrastructure legislation even though President Trump recently announced he won’t work with top congressional Democrats as long as he’s under investigation by them.

Trump had pledged to take the lead in finding a way to provide revenue for a $2 trillion package over 10 years.

Without the president’s lead, lawmakers will have difficulty agreeing on financing a major bill but could agree on at least some measures.

There are 22 House Republicans in the Problem Solvers Caucus, several of whom issued upbeat comments about the new 16-page bipartisan policy document that largely repeats the policies the group supported in 2018 when Republicans had majority control of the House.

Republican Rep. Tom Reed of New York, who is co-chair of the caucus, released a statement Tuesday saying the plan contains “the building blocks necessary to craft a comprehensive infrastructure plan both parties can agree to.”

"Congress must come together to act on this issue now, not later,” Reed said.

The Democratic co-chair of the caucus, Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, issued a statement Friday saying, “Our roads, bridges, and tunnels are literally crumbling, and it’s costing us in jobs and productivity. I’m confident that Congress and the administration will put partisanship aside to fix our ailing infrastructure.”

Gottheimer, whose district is in the northern New Jersey suburbs of New York City, is among the many lawmakers in that region who have expressed frustration with the Trump administration’s lack of support for developing a new passenger rail tunnel under the Hudson River and other access areas to it.

On Wednesday Gottheimer announced the introduction of the Get On-Board to Fix the Tunnel Act to require the Trump administration to appoint a federal member of the Gateway Development Corp. within 30 days.

The bipartisan caucus said in its policy document its top priority is for Congress “to provide stable long-term sustainable funding for infrastructure.”

Their second priority is preserving and expanding “tax-advantaged infrastructure financing options by maintaining the federal tax-exempt status for municipal bonds and private activity bonds as well as increasing the private activity bond state volume cap for all infrastructure categories.”

The third priority listed is incentivizing states “to adopt Public Private Partnership (P3) enabling legislation and establish P3 units to evaluate projects for viability as public private partnerships.”

The two House committees with jurisdiction over infrastructure policy -- the tax-policy writing Ways and Means Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee with jurisdiction over fees such as the Passenger Facility Charge that backs many airport bonds -- have not scheduled any dates for marking up major infrastructure legislation.

A spokeswoman for Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said in an email Friday that “infrastructure is still very much a priority of the chairman’s.”

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Infrastructure Tax-exempt bonds Private activity bonds Public-private partnership Washington DC