Baucus announced a committee markup session on Feb. 7 for its $10 billion Highway Investment, Job Creation and Economic Growth Act of 2012. See Baucus Unveils Chairman's Mark to Fund Highway Bill, Create Infrastructure Jobs, Senate Finance Committee (Feb. 3, 2012). The bill extends various fuel and transportation taxes through 2015 and ensures sufficient funds in the Highway Trust Fund to pay for an upcoming appropriation of $109 billion under S. 1813 for highway, transit and safety measures.
The bill raises revenues through various means. One is further closing of the noose on the "black liquor" loophole under the cellulogic biofuels credit that allowed wood pulp producers to take a tax credit on a decades old byproduct of their industry (and hence clearly wasn't incentivizing new and needed innovation). That will raise about $2.8 billion over ten years. Another provision gets at tax scofflaws--passports will be revoked for US taxpayers owing $50,000 or more in(in inflation adjusted dollars) in taxes, raising about $743 million over ten years. The bill also would increase the levy authority of the US from 15% to 100% on tax delinquent Medicare service providers, raising about $841 million over ten years. Much of the rest of the revenues come from transfers from one fund to another--the gas guzzler tax that raises about $70 million a year would now be dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund rather than going to general funds, and about $3 billion in purportedly excess funds currently in the "leaking underground storage tank" fund will be tranferred to the Highway Trust Fund (and then the rate to replenish the LUST will be reduced from 0.1cents to 0.066 cents).
Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee approved, on a partisan 20-17 vote, a surface transportation financing bill, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Financing Act of 2012 (H.R. 3864) that also extends the Highway Trust Fund. But the GOP-dominated committee is out to get mass transit. The financing bill eliminates the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund and ends the earmarking of 2.86 cents per gallon on fuel taxes for transit. Instead, it provides for a one-time transfer from the general fund of $40 billion for mass transit support (but Ways & Means' GOP Chair Dave Camp didn't bother to find where the $40 billion would come from--staffers said it will come from cuts to federal workers' pension benefit funding). That will impede the development in the US of the kind of mass transit infrastructure that Europe enjoys. According to BNA Daily Tax RealTime (Feb. 3, 2012), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) noted that the move represents a step backwards in mass transit for this country, but added that "I don't think it will be enacted into law.” (Ways & Means also rejected a renewal of the Build America Bonds program.)