WASHINGTON Feb 26 President Barack Obama will
fly to St. Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday to propose a four-year,
$302 billion plan to create jobs by fixing the nation's
crumbling roads, bridges, rail and transportation
Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline to renew federal funding
for transportation programs, a deadline that has made state
governors concerned about planning projects that typically run
through September and into the fall months.
Obama will propose ending some tax breaks to provide a
one-time $150 billion infusion of cash into transportation
funding, the White House said.
"This vision will show how we can invest in the things we
need to grow and create jobs by closing unfair tax loopholes,
lowering tax rates, and making the system more fair," the White
House said in a statement previewing his speech, set for 3:05
p.m. EST (2005 GMT).
Obama will first tour an operations and maintenance center
for Metro Transit, the system of buses, light rail and commuter
trains serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul "Twin Cities" region.
Obama has long called for using savings from tax reform to
replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which relies on an
18.4-cents-a-gallon tax on gasoline to pay for the federal share
of spending on roads. But it seems unlikely that a major tax
overhaul could pass Congress in an election year.
"While the president will show how to fully pay for his
proposal in this way, he will also make clear that he is open to
ideas and wants to work with Congress in a bipartisan way to get
this done," the White House said.
The gas tax, which raises about $35 billion a year, has not
been raised in two decades, and the trust fund has fallen short
of needs. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said said the
fund could run out of money as soon as August.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO labor
federation have proposed increasing the fuel tax, but
Republicans in Congress are averse to tax hikes.
In St. Paul, Obama also will launch a competition for $600
million in grants for transportation projects through a program
that leverages funds from the private sector and state and local
governments. The spending has already been approved by Congress.
It is the sixth round of grants for the program, called
Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER),
which so far has given $3.5 billion to 270 projects.
The White House said this round of grants will give priority
to "projects that make it easier for Americans to get to jobs,
school, and other opportunities, promote neighborhood
revitalization and business expansion, and reconnect
neighborhoods that are unnaturally divided by physical barriers
such as highways and railroads."