The House Ways and Means Committee’s select revenue measures panel will hold a hearing Thursday on proposals to create an infrastructure bank.
The subcommittee, chaired by Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., will take a broad look at infrastructure financing, according to a committee staff member. Instead of focusing solely on highway, bridge, and related projects that are included in an infrastructure bank proposed last year by House Transportation Committee chairman James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., the panel will consider other brick-and-mortar investments such as energy and water.
Witnesses had not been confirmed by Friday, but the staffer said the panel will touch on states’ experiences with their infrastructure banks. The panel also will weigh the merits of different financing mechanisms that could increase or decrease tax revenue, and what the potential affect would be on the national debt.
Infrastructure bank advocates and transportation-focused lawmakers and industry groups have been watching for the Ways and Means Committee to take up the topic of infrastructure financing — a thorny issue that has managed to drive a wedge between some House Democrats and the Obama administration.
The White House in its fiscal 2011 budget pushed for funding to create a national bank for transportation projects that would be initially funded by Congress at $4 billion, with roughly $2 billion used for grants and $417 million used to subsidize $2.1 billion of direct loans.
The administration also proposed funding for a national infrastructure bank in fiscal 2010, but Congress decided not to provide conditional funding, saying it should first be created through the usual authorization process.
The House Transportation Committee and individual lawmakers in both chambers have proposed infrastructure banks that would cover various portions of the infrastructure market and provide a new financing option for muni bond issuers. Oberstar has proposed a national bank and metropolitan banks to complement the already-existing state infrastructure banks.
However, all of the proposals would likely require the Ways and Means Committee’s approval of a means to capitalize the bank, such as Treasury bonds, tax-preferred bonds, or tax incentives.
“For many years, there has been bipartisan support for increased investment in our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure system,” Neal said in an announcement about the hearing. “The concept of a national infrastructure bank has been raised as a possible mechanism for funding these critical regional and national projects. This hearing will explore the merits of that proposal and other methods to effectively meet America’s growing infrastructure challenges.”