By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA
Two key congressional committees meet next week to discuss the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will convene a June 17 hearing on the “Long-Term Financing of the Highway Trust Fund.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has also scheduled a June 18 hearing entitled “Dead End, No Turn Around, Danger Ahead: Challenges to the Future of Highway Funding.”
The tax-writing Ways & Means and Finance committees have jurisdiction over the HTF’s spending authority and revenue streams. In announcing the hearing, Ryan said, “The roads and bridges that keep our economy moving rely on a highly unsustainable financing system. Solving this challenge for the long term will require us to think big, and I look forward to exploring new ideas to close the shortfall once and for all.”
Similarly, Hatch noted, “While many in Congress agree we should aim for a long-term highway bill, the problem is often agreeing on how to pay for it.” The Finance Committee last held a HTF revenue hearing May 6, 2014.
While Chairman Ryan and other members of Congress claim the trust fund’s revenue stream is unsustainable, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects annual revenue will remain constant for the next eight years before they start to gradually decline—largely due to implementation of new fuel economy standards. According to the CBO, the Highway Trust Fund requires an additional $16 billion annually just to maintain current levels of highway and public transportation investment.
These hearings reinforce the current focus on Capitol Hill of addressing the Highway Trust Fund’s recurring revenue shortfalls and in enacting a multi-year surface transportation bill.