By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday unveiled an $8.1 billion plan to fund highway and rail transit projects through the end of 2015, paid for by extending an airport security fee increase and various tax rule changes.
Congress faces a July 31 deadline to renew federal transportation spending authority and avoid a major slowdown in road construction projects nationwide.
The five-month funding extension bill, which also will replenish the dwindling Highway Trust Fund for five months, was introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster.
Both Republicans and Democrats have said they would prefer a longer, six-year transportation bill, but lawmakers have not been able to agree on funding the nearly half-billion dollar cost.
The short-term extension is aimed at buying time for lawmakers to negotiate a longer-term bill, funded largely by capturing tax revenues from the repatriation of some $2 trillion in U.S. corporate profits held overseas.
However, Ryan said that would need to be part of a larger revamp of the international corporate tax code that will take several more months.
"This country needs a long-term plan to fix our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, and this bill gives us our best shot at completing one this year," Ryan and Shuster said in a statement.
The trust fund has been chronically depleted in recent years because fuel tax rates have not changed since 1993 while construction costs have risen and vehicle fuel economy has improved. Republicans, who control both the House and Senate have ruled out a fuel tax increase.
The House plan would fund the $8.1 billion patch by extending higher Transportation Security Administration fees by two more years, until 2026, this would produce new revenues of $3.2 billion over 10 years.
In a 2013 budget deal, the minimum fees, levied on airline tickets, were more than doubled to $5.60 for each one-way trip.
The rest of the offsetting savings come from tax code changes aimed at improving collections and reporting of income. Estates would be required to report the value of a property on the day of the owner's death, preventing heirs from overstating the value years later to reduce their tax liability upon sale. And mortgage lenders would have to submit information on mortgage origination dates, reducing inaccurate reporting.
The Ryan and Shuster proposal does not include a provision to renew the charter of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which expired on June 30. Ryan has said he believes the government trade lending agency practices "crony capitalism" and should be closed.
Democrats in the Senate are planning to attach a measure to revive Ex-Im to a Senate transportation bill
(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Michael Perry)