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Senator Proposes National Infrastructure Bank

The Build USA Act would create an American Infrastructure Bank with a bipartisan board.

Mon May 18, 2015 - National Edition

Reuters is reporting that a Republican senator last week proposed that Congress create a new bank to overcome a drought in federal infrastructure funds partly by using voluntarily repatriated corporate dollars to help states finance road and bridge projects.

The Build USA Act, the latest in a series of similar but unsuccessful attempts to generate infrastructure funding without raising taxes, would create an American Infrastructure Bank (AIB) with a bipartisan board, including the U.S. transportation secretary. The bill would also offer states more authority over their own compliance with federal infrastructure requirements.

Aides to Republican Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska, who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, said she would introduce the measure on Tuesday.

The legislation comes as efforts to hammer out a new comprehensive highway bill before a May 31 deadline have stalled in Congress. Lawmakers, who have been unable to agree on how to pay for infrastructure investment, appear likely to opt for a temporary extension of current funding levels, according to aides and administration officials.

"As millions of Americans sit in endless traffic jams and travel on decaying bridges, our government continues to waste time and money," Fischer said in a statement.

Like similar legislation introduced in recent years, the Build USA Act would capitalize the AIB with corporate dollars repatriated from overseas. Fischer’s office said the sum could total as much as $30 billion. The bank’s board members, most of whom would be appointed by Congress, could also raise capital by issuing debt securities.

In a new twist, Fischer’s aides said the legislation would reduce regulatory hurdles by allowing states to decide whether their projects comply with federal requirements for environmental approval, construction design, right-of-way acquisition and other procedures.

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