Highway bill raises funds from banks and Fed

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A highway spending bill nearing congressional passage would take funds from both large banks and the Federal Reserve, handing a significant loss to industry and the central bank.

In a version of the highway spending bill unveiled Tuesday, five years of spending on transportation projects would be offset in part by drawing down a surplus capital account at the Fed. Funds would also be raised by cutting $6.9 billion in dividend payments made by the Fed to large banks.

The cut to dividend payments had been taken out of a version of the legislation passed by the House of Representatives after banks objected. But it was added back in a scaled-back form in the conference committee. Now, banks with above $10 billion in assets will see the 6 percent dividend they are paid as members of the Fed system cut to the same rate as the interest rate on a 10 year Treasury security. That rate was 2.1 percent Tuesday, above the 1.5 percent previously contemplated as the dividend under the Senate version of the highway bill.

"The big banks aren't happy about that provision, but most of the banks around the country, most are protected," Senate Republican conference chair John Thune of South Dakota. told reporters Thursday.

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