By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional affairs, ARTBA
Short and long-term revenue shortfalls for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) are more dire than predicted this spring, according to an Aug. 22 update from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The non-partisan congressional scorekeeper projects that tax and user fee proceeds from this year through 2020 will total $206.9 billion, or $1.4 billion less than the March forecast of $208.3 billion.
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act enacted in December 2015 included a $70 billion General Fund transfer to help cover the gap between authorized spending on highway and transit programs and estimated HTF revenues. If the latest CBO projections are accurate, HTF revenue may not support funding levels by the time the FAST Act expires in 2020. Beyond then, the HTF is facing annual deficits between current spending levels with inflationary adjustments and current CBO revenue projections of $18 billion from 2021 through 2026.
The CBO estimates serve as another strong reminder that Congress and the administration should act soon to address the looming HTF cliff rather than increasing uncertainty about federal transportation investments.