January 4, 2019 – Yesterday, the House of Representatives elected Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and passed a package of rules changes that include the abolition of term limits for committee changes and two budget changes with a bit effect on Highway Trust Fund spending.
Eno Transportation Weekly
January 2, 2019 – A new rules package to be adopted by the House of Representatives tomorrow repeals term limits for committee and subcommittee chairmen, repeals the “Ryan rule” on Highway Trust Fund bailout transfers, and makes other changes that directly affect transportation and infrastructure programs and committees.
October 26, 2018 – Better-than-expected fiscal 2018 Highway Trust Fund tax receipts mean that the Trust Fund is projected to remain solvent at current funding levels through mid- to late summer 2021.
October 19, 2018 – The Federal Highway Administration has reported the year-end balances and cash flow of the Trust Fund in an updated Table FE-1, revealing that the Trust Fund ran an $11.8 billion cash deficit in fiscal year 2018 and ended with a total balance of $44.5 billion.
October 19, 2018 – The booming economy and corporate tax cuts caused a surge in the sales of heavy trucks and trailers in fiscal year 2018, causing gross receipts of the Highway Trust Fund to increase by 5.0 percent over fiscal year 2017.
October 8, 2018 – The start of the fiscal year gives us a chance to look at the long-term cost of the financial obligations of the Highway Trust Fund and to separate them into the cost of old commitments versus new commitments.
September 21, 2018 – Forty years ago today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted decisively against putting the Highway Trust Fund on a form of “accrual accounting” that would have limited each future year’s new spending levels to that year’s estimated future tax revenues. The vote was part of debate on the landmark 1978 law that served as a “test run” for the 2005 SAFETEA-LU law.
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).
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.
Instead of levying a vehicle miles traveled fee (VMT), which would charge drivers based on the mileage they drive, policymakers should explore and consider a different revenue mechanism that appears to have several advantages over VMT. A usage time (UT) fee would be based on time the vehicle is in use; fees start accruing when the engine starts and stop when the engine shuts down.
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).
May 30, 2018 – Last Friday afternoon, the House Rules Committee announced the amendment process by which the Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 8) will be brought before the House of Representatives for debate next week. That process includes stripping out a provision authored by Rep.
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.