US Transportation Secretary Touts Public Works Plan

Feb 17, 2015

Secretary Foxx speaking at a town hall event on FAMU's campus
Credit Nick Evans

U.S. Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, is hitting the road to rally support for one of President Barack Obama’s major budget initiatives.  The so-called Grow America Act puts nearly half a trillion dollars into infrastructure projects over the next six years.

Foxx began a four-day, five-state bus tour Tuesday at the Tallahassee regional Airport.  He’s working to highlight infrastructure projects that would benefit from Obama’s transportation budget proposal.  In Tallahassee, he pointed to a project to expand Capital Circle Southwest from two lanes to six. 

“But of the $120 million needed for this project,” Foxx says, “right now it has $9 million.  You need 120; you have nine.  And without the rest of the money, the city won’t be the economic hub it could be.”

But many Republican lawmakers could balk at the source of funding.  Obama’s proposal raises about half of its funds from a tax on overseas corporate profits.  Currently, companies are charged 35 percent, but only when they transfer the money into the U.S.  So, not surprisingly, many don’t.  Estimates put the total of overseas profits at just over two trillion dollars.  Obama wants to impose a 14 percent transitional tax on this pool due immediately.  He would up the rate to 19 thereafter.  For the tax-wary GOP, the proposal might look like a new tax, but Foxx is optimistic, saying tax-reform is one of the places Republicans have signaled they’d be willing to work together.

“The President and [Treasury] Secretary Lew have put on the table a comprehensive approach and we think it is in the same zipcode as that that many Republicans are talking about,” Foxx says.

The other half of the measure’s funding comes from the federal gas tax.  Jacksonville Democratic Congresswoman Corrinne Brown says with gas prices so low there’s likely room to raise those rates.

“So many of our stakeholders, and I’m talking about Chamber, different groups, have come to us and say raise the gas tax—tax us!  But make sure the money goes into the programs,” Brown says.

Brown serves on the House Transportation Committee, and she describes it as the most bipartisan committee in Washington.  But despite agreement across the political spectrum that the time is right for infrastructure spending, and indications Republicans are interested in corporate tax reform, the President’s proposal remains a heavy lift.  Congress has passed short-term appropriations for highway funding 32 times in the past six years, and Secretary Foxx says that’s indication it’s time for a long-term solution.