McConnell supports long-overdue Kentucky bridge project, but rejects proposed corporate tax hikes to fund the work

Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaks after a GOP policy luncheon on Capitol Hill.

  • Mitch McConnell is opposed to President Joe Biden’s proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill.
  • McConnell isn’t changing his anti-tax views, even if it threatens funding for a new Spence Bridge.
  • The bridge, which links Ohio and Kentucky, is a critical transportation artery in the US.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, has become a flashpoint in the national debate over President Joe Biden’s proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill.

For GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the fate of the nearly 58-year-old double-decker truss bridge over the Ohio River is a local issue, as it serves as a critical transportation link to his home state.

The repair or total replacement of the bridge would have major economic implications across the US, as the artery carries an estimated 3% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) each year, according to The New York Times.

In the past, McConnell has called the bridge “outdated and inadequate” and “an unacceptable strain on the local economy,” as it is frequently the scene of accidents that can snarl traffic for miles.

However, McConnell does not believe that fixing the bridge should be funded by raising corporate taxes, a key element of Biden’s proposal and a reversal from former President Donald Trump, who in 2017 cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Biden aims to fund his proposed infrastructure bill by setting the corporate tax rate between 25% and 28%, which would likely attract some moderate Senate Democrats who are reluctant to sign off on the higher rate.

McConnell has drawn a red line, though, rejecting any corporate tax increases and pushing for a smaller infrastructure plan that Senate Republicans could support.

“We’re open to doing a roughly $600 billion package which deals with what all of us agree is infrastructure and to talk about how to pay for that in any way other than reopening the 2017 tax-reform bill,” he said on Monday.

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McConnell’s stance shows that even with funding for the Spence Bridge project potentially on the line, the gulf between Republicans and Democrats is so stark that anti-tax sentiment could sink any progress for a long-term solution.

“I can’t imagine that somewhere in a multitrillion dollar bill, there wouldn’t be money for the Brent Spence Bridge,” he said last month. “Whether that is part of an overall package I could support? I could tell you if it’s going to have massive tax increases and trillions more added to the national debt, not likely.”

Brent Spence Bridge
The Brent Spence Bridge connects Cincinnati, Ohio and northern Kentucky.

McConnell leads a caucus where anti-tax sentiment runs deep

Under Biden’s proposed bill, transportation infrastructure, which includes the modernization of roads, bridges, and highways, would receive a $621 billion investment.

Proposals to levy tolls on the bridge, which could be a potential source of funding, have encountered resistance from many northern Kentucky residents, according to Spectrum News.

Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican, told The Times that McConnell is “like a wishbone, pulled on both sides.”

“He would love to invest in Kentucky, not just because of his legacy but because he believes in it,” he said. “On the other side, he’s the Republican leader of a caucus that doesn’t want to cooperate with Biden, doesn’t want to spend money, doesn’t want to raise corporate taxes, and is more willing to vote ‘no’ than figure out how to make this thing work.”

A proposal that has floated for several years would allocate $2.6 billion for a newer and wider span beside the existing Spence Bridge, according to The Times.

The issue has bedeviled politicians from both parties for years – former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both sought to fix the bridge, to no avail.

Biden is set to meet with several Republican senators at the White House to discuss infrastructure next week, which will represent a turning point in the Democratic strategy for moving the bill through Congress.

Democrats could attempt to pass the bill through the budget reconciliation process, which would only require a simple majority in lieu of the 60 vote threshold needed to avoid a filibuster.

If Biden’s larger infrastructure bill is largely passed intact, Ohio and Kentucky could potentially receive federal funding for the project without any GOP votes.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio told The Times that the next few weeks would be a “test” for congressional Republicans who want a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“I hope they decide they want to work with us,” he said. “We are not going to let Mitch McConnell’s or other Republicans’ definitions of partisanship get in the way of doing something big.”

Read the original article on Business Insider