By Dean Franks, senior vice president for congressional relations, ARTBA
The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) needs at least $6.4 billion in additional revenue to support surface transportation programs at current funding levels, plus inflation, through September 2021, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says.
The congressional scorekeeper Sept. 2 released updated revenue and outlay projections for core federal highway and public transportation programs for the first time since the March onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In its January estimate, the CBO said the HTF was solvent through September 2021.
The updated HTF estimates come as the current surface transportation law, the FAST Act, expires at the end of September with no movement in Congress on replacement legislation. ARTBA and its stakeholder partners are urging Congress and the Trump administration to extend the FAST Act for one year with increased core funding levels. The CBO update gives members of Congress and their staffs a clear picture of how much additional revenue is needed to supplement HTF receipts during such an extension.
The CBO release also comes with Congress gridlocked on a second COVID-19 relief package, and funding for the full federal government set to expire Sept. 30. Congress must resolve these major issues to avoid a government shutdown, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin say they are committed to avoiding. The length of a spending extension, however, remains unclear.
ARTBA will continue pushing for greater marketplace certainty and stability in the coming weeks via a year-long FAST Act extension with increased funding. ARTBA also continues to build support for the separate request of additional aid to state departments of transportation and public transit agencies as part of any COVID-19 pandemic relief package.