WASHINGTON — Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the House Transportation Committee’s highways and transit panel, introduced a bill this week that he said would pay for a $450 billion to $500 billion, multi-year transportation bill to replace the current law, which expires Sept. 30.

The bill, now pending in the House Ways and Means Committee, would impose a tax on oil futures and options transactions.

The tax would generate more than $190 billion of revenue over six years, according to DeFazio. The revenue would be deposited in the highway trust fund and would “more than” fill a $140 billion gap in funding for federal highway grants, he said.

The taxes on these crude oil transactions also would lower the price of oil, DeFazio contended.

The measure would place a 0.02% tax on crude oil futures contracts and a 0.5% tax on premiums paid for the option to buy a futures contract.

The bill has at least 28 cosponsors, including the committee’s chairman, James Oberstar, D-Minn.

The committee has not yet voted on the multi-year bill that the tax would support, saying it is waiting on the House Ways and Means Committee to decide on a revenue source to pay for the legislation before it can move forward.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday approved a $122 billion appropriations bill that would provide $1.2 billion to high-speed rail projects in fiscal 2010.

That amount is almost $3 billion less than the $4 billion that was approved by the House earlier this month. However, the House bill would allow part of the high-speed rail funding to be rerouted to a national infrastructure bank if one is created by Congress. The bill pending in the Senate does not include that provision.

The annual spending measure approved by the Senate committee also would provide $3.5 billion for airport capital investment and $3.99 billion for bond-related community development block grants.

The allocation for CDBGs, which are used in conjunction with bonds for projects in communities with struggling economies, would be $350 million higher than last year.

If the full Senate approves the bill, it would still need to be reconciled with the House’s version of the bill and signed by the president.

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