New bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate could help bridge the highway funding gap by expanding the use of tax-exempt bonds and implementing a new tax credit to help state and local governments pay for infrastructure projects.

Co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, and Sen, John Hoeven (R-ND), the “Move America Act of 2015”  is designed to leverage additional private investment in public infrastructure.

The bill seeks to create Move America Bonds, to expand tax-exempt financing for public-private partnerships, and Move America Credits, to leverage additional private equity investment at a lower cost for States.

According to the bill’s sponsors, passage of Move America would provide the “cheaper and more flexible access to debt and equity” that states and local governments need to expand their investments in roads, bridges, ports and other transportation infrastructure.

Photo: U.S. DOT

Photo: U.S. DOT

The bill would provide:

  • Up to $180 billion in tax-exempt bond authority for States over the next 10 years
  • Up to $45 billion in infrastructure tax credits for States over the next 10 years
  • “Flexible public-private partnership ownership arrangements” for roads, bridges, ports, rail, and airports

“Move America will turbocharge investment and give states and localities the flexibility they need to quickly and efficiently break ground on projects,” said Sen. Wyden. “An injection of private capital, in addition to sustainable funding for transportation programs, will help get America’s economic engine running at full speed.”

Sen. Hoeven stated that the bill enjoys bipartisan support and that the sponsors “seek to do it in a way that incentivizes private investment, leverages the P3 program and is fully paid for so that it doesn’t increase the deficit.”

Numerous transportation-related and other business lobbying groups have endorsed the Move America program, including: American Association of Port Authorities, American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, American Road and Transportation Builders, Associated General Contractors of America, Highway Users Alliance, The Business Roundtable, and the  United States Chamber of Commerce.

In its statement on the measure, the Chamber of Commerce first noted that its top transportation funding priority is “identifying the transportation-related, ongoing, sustainable, and substantial revenue sources that will support passage of a long-term highway and transit authorization bill.”

The Chamber then said it is “strongly supportive of new tools such as those in the Move America proposal that promote private investment in transportation and other infrastructure. It is smart business for the federal government to help make infrastructure project economics attract private capital.”

The Highway Users Alliance called the bill’s Move America Bonds “a valuable supplement to any future funding solution that helps bring Congress closer to a long-term highway bill.”