The Highway Trust Fund ran out of money 10 years ago this month, but this month is also the 40th anniversary of the first attempt by the House transportation committee to “spend down” Trust Fund balances to zero, and of a competing plan to ensure that annual Trust Fund spending commitments could never exceed annual revenues (which would, of course, have prevented the Trust Fund from ever going broke).
Eno Transportation Weekly
Category: Highway Trust Fund
September 5, 2018 – Ten years ago today, the U.S. Department of Transportation made the stunning announcement that the federal Highway Trust Fund had run out of money. $144 billion in bailouts later, we look back and ask how did this happen, and what have we learned?
August 17, 2018 – This chart visualizes the annual cycle of payments from the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund.
When looking at budget process reform, remember that through a series of historical accidents, 99 percent of the spending from the Highway Trust Fund is exempt from both statutory systems of budget discipline – the PAYGO process for mandatory spending, and the Budget Control Act spending caps for discretionary spending. Thus, Highway Trust Fund spending is also exempt from sequestration – because sequestration is only a tool used to enforce the statutory systems of budget discipline.
July 13, 2018 – The latest variant of legislation to turn responsibility for most highway funding back to states, eliminate most federal mass transit spending, and reduce federal gasoline and diesel fuel taxes was introduced in the Senate. S. 3190, the “Transportation Empowerment Act,” was introduced on July 10 by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
April 11, 2018 – The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office this week released its annual Budget and Economic Outlook which is accompanied by its initial annual spending and revenue baseline estimates for Congressional committees.
March 15, 2018 – Last Friday, the Treasury Department released the quarterly Treasury Bulletin, a publication containing a trove of data about all kinds of federal fiscal dealings. The March bulletin of each year is notable because that is the annual issue that contains detailed end-of-year summaries of, and out-year projections for, all federal trust funds.
March 9, 2018 – This week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) threw cold water on discussions of a possible federal motor fuels tax increase to fund Highway Trust Fund solvency and/or an infrastructure initiative.
February 14, 2018 – The fiscal 2019 budget request from the Trump Administration scrupulously fulfills all of the promises made by the FAST Act for Highway Trust Fund financial resources for the year covered by the budget.
October 27, 2017 – This week, White House economic czar Gary Cohn broached the idea of an increase in federal gasoline and diesel fuel excise taxes as a possible “pay-for” for an infrastructure initiative.
October 20, 2017 – This week, the Treasury Department released the financial totals for federal trust fund accounts for the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2017.
The following chart shows Highway Trust Fund annual new spending obligation authority granted by Congress (obligation limitations, exempt-from-obligation contract authority, and direct appropriations), net tax receipts, and average annual bailout transfers from the general fund or LUST Trust Fund (starting in 2008), in billions of dollars.
July 7, 2017 – The Congressional Budget Office on July 5 updated its semiannual forecast of Highway Trust Fund cash flow issued the week before due to a spreadsheet error in the Highway Account.
June 30, 2017 – Yesterday afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office issued its official budget baseline for fiscal 2018, including an updated projection for the fiscal solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.
May 25, 2017 – The President’s budget fulfills all FAST Act authorizations for highway funding in 2018 but promises cuts and delays starting in 2019.
April 27, 2017 – The outline for tax reform released by the White House yesterday does not specifically mention infrastructure but does leave room for another infusion of money into the federal Highway Trust Fund.
March 23, 2017 – This week, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the ranking minority member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced a bill to infuse tens of billions of dollars per year into the Highway Trust Fund immediately, to be repaid through annual indexation increases in the federal gasoline and diesel fuel excise taxes.
February 8, 2017 – Recently, President Trump received unsolicited advice on transportation infrastructure financing from two different sources – stakeholder groups, and Rep. Peter DeFazio.
January 25, 2017 – Yesterday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its annual Budget and Economic Outlook, this one covering the ongoing fiscal year (2017) and the ten-year 2018-2027 period.
November 30, 2016 – Today, the outgoing chairman of the House Budget Committee, Tom Price (R-GA), released a long-gestating budget process reform plan that would make fundamental changes in the way Congress considers Highway Trust Fund and Airport and Airway Trust Fund programs.