Long-term federal highway funding: Still stuck in the breakdown lane. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster and Ways & Means Chair Paul Ryan need more time to “reach a bipartisan agreement” on financing the Highway Trust Fund so they introduced a bill to extend the program for two months. The Senate seems ready to move on a similar measure. That will apparently do for now, since current funding should last into July. Ways & Means Committee Democrats want hearings on highway funding in June, but lawmakers have made little progress on a long-term funding solution.
Minnesota may need more time for its infrastructure funding plans, too. House and Senate leaders could soon have a budget deal that boosts public school funding and maintains a low-income health care program. But they have only until the end of today to choose between tax relief or transportation funding. Both Republicans and Democrats want to increase transportation funding, but House Republicans are also insisting on $2 billion in tax relief.
Nebraska’s legislature overrode a veto of a gas tax increase. Republican Governor Pete Ricketts opposed a 6-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase, but the bill’s Republican sponsor Senator Jim Smith said the tax is the best way to pay for construction and improve road safety. Nebraska’s total gas tax will grow to 31.6 cents per gallon over four years. Once fully effective, it would raise an extra $25 million a year for the state, and $51 million annually for cities and counties.
Vermont’s legislature figured out a way to raise taxes, too. It passed a $30 million tax package on Saturday and can now adjourn its 2015 session. Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin wanted to limit tax increases to $15 million. The House and Senate applied Vermont’s 6 percent sales tax to soft drinks for the first time, but most new revenues come from limiting the ability of high-income taxpayers to claim income tax deductions.
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