Passage of the measure will put in place a key provision for the Senate's plan to reauthorize the federal highway program with a $109 billion, two-year bill. The House, meanwhile, is working on a $260 billion, five-year bill.
In the absence of political will to raise fuel taxes, which go into the Highway Trust Fund as the primary source of road funding, both chambers are looking for additional money to fund their bills.
The House is considering a measure to raise money through leases for new drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expanded oil shale development.
The Senate is considering a half-dozen items that would produce $9.6 billion in revenue for highways or offsets elsewhere in the budget.
The plan put forward by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee, begins with transferring money from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund to the Highway Trust Fund.
The LUST Fund, which was established in 1986 to help fix leaking fuel tanks, is fed by 0.1 cents per gallon of the federal fuel tax. The official estimate of how much revenue this would produce is not yet available.
In addition, the Baucus plan calls for ending a tax credit on so-called "black liquor," a byproduct of paper-making that is qualified as an alternative fuel. This would raise about $2.8 billion over 10 years.
Another provision would transfer the income from the gas guzzler tax to the Highway Trust Fund. That tax is imposed on cars that do not meet the federal 22.5 mpg fuel economy standard. The change would produce an estimated $697 million over 10 years.
Other elements in the plan include strengthening controls over tax collections by revoking the passports of individuals who owe more than $50,000 in back taxes, raising the penalty for tax delinquency by Medicare providers and transferring the proceeds from certain import tariffs to the Highway Trust Fund.