The Congressional Budget Office (CBO)—the federal government’s official score keeper when it comes to budgets and program expenditures—released August 27 projections showing the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) will be require at least $7 billion in additional resources to support existing levels of highway and public transportation investment from June 1, 2015, through September 30, 2015. According to CBO, the Highway Account of the HTF will be $2 billion short to get through FY 2015 and the Transit Account will need an amount less than $500 million. The U.S. Department of Transportation claims surpluses of $4 billion in the Highway Account and $1 billion in the Transit Account are necessary for cash flow purposes. Overcoming the trust fund’s projected revenue deficit and meeting the department’s liquidity requirement pushes the next round of HTF supplementary needs to $7 billion or more.
Congress approved legislation at the end of July that transferred $10.8 billion into the HTF to avert a revenue shortfall and preserve surface transportation investments through May 31, 2015. Roughly $3 billion of that $10.8 billion was needed to maintain trust fund continuity in August and September. The remaining $7.8 billion—when combined with incoming motor fuel taxes and other highway user fees—will support highway and transit spending for the first eight months of FY 2015.
While the latest CBO projection simply quantifies what was already anticipated—as the July congressional action was always represented as a temporary patch, it reinforces the need for ARTBA and our members to continue to push Congress to enact a long-term HTF revenue plan by the end of this year. Absent such action, the next HTF revenue crisis looms just as the 2015 construction season would otherwise be kicking into high gear.