One-Year FAST Act Extension Passes House

One-Year FAST Act Extension Passes House

September 25, 2020  | Jeff Davis

The House of Representatives has passed a one-year extension of FAST Act funding and policy as Division B of a larger fiscal-year-end package (H.R 8337) by the wide majority of 359 to 57, with one member voting “present” (vote tally sheet here). The Senate is scheduled to vote to shut off debate on H.R. 8337 at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 29, and the bipartisan support for the agreement makes it very likely that the bill will be signed into law by President Trump before midnight on the 30th, enabling all Highway Trust Fund programs to continue without interruption.

The bill is as “clean” an extension as we can remember seeing. Every account receives the same amount of Trust Fund contract authority for 2021 as it received in 2020, and none of the policy conditions or program parameters have changed.

The dollar amounts of contract authority being provided by H.R. 8337 are:

Federal Highway Administration $47,104,092,000
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration $675,800,000
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration $778,317,000
Federal Transit Administration $10,150,348,462
Total Contract Authority $58,708,557,462

This does not necessarily mean that every program will distribute every dollar the same way in 2021 that it did in 2020. On the highway formula side, read this ETW article elsewhere in this issue on how state-by-state funding totals and programmatic totals will change under the new extension. For mass transit formula funding, all of the calculations will need to be run again if apportionment factors have changed. And, as this article on the continuing appropriations resolution notes, money for competitive grant programs generally won’t be distributed until calendar year 2021, after a year-long 2021 appropriations bill is enacted.

H.R. 8337 contains a $13.6 billion transfer from the general fund of the Treasury to the Highway Trust Fund – $10.4 billion to be deposited in the Highway Account and $3.2 billion in the Mass Transit Account. This is anticipated to be enough to allow the Trust Fund to continue normal operations under the H.R. 8337 funding levels through September 30, 2021, with a built-in safety margin in case excise tax revenues turn out to be more volatile than predicted. (Apparently, a lot of paper tax returns from oil companies and truck and trailer manufacturers are in a kind of Schrödinger cat box at the IRS, their envelopes unopened.)

Enactment of H.R. 8337 will bring the total of general fund bailouts of the Highway Trust Fund to $153.5 billion since September 2008, as shown in the table below.

The Congressional Budget Office updated its Highway Trust Fund cash flow baseline projections earlier this month. The following chart shows annual Trust Fund receipts and interest (blue columns) versus outlays (red line) for fiscal years 2007-2019 (actual) and 2020-2030 (new CBO baseline), plus the one-time transfers to date (green columns on top of blue columns), including the $13.6 billion transfer in H.R. 8337.

A section-by-section summary of the extension legislation follows.

Here is a section-by-section summary of the introduced legislation:

Sec. 1101. (a) Provides that, except as otherwise specified, “the requirements, authorities, conditions, eligibilities, limitations, and other provisions authorized under [existing surface transportation] laws, which would otherwise expire on or cease to apply after September 30, 2020, are incorporated by reference and shall continue in effect through September 30, 2021.” (b) Creates new HTF contract authority for FY 2021 equal to the amount created in FY 2020 for every account, and authorizes general fund appropriation for FY 2021 for all FAST-authorized programs in an amount “not less than” the amount authorized for FY 2020 by FAST. (c) Provides that all FY 2021 amounts shall be distributed, administered, limited, and made available for obligations in the same manner as FY 2020. (d) Provides that an obligation shall apply to FY 2021 funds in the same manner one applied in FY 2020. (e) Lists which laws are incorporated by (a).

Sec. 1102. Increases the five-year, $500 million aggregate limitation on non-highway freight projects funded by the INFRA grant program under FAST to a six-year, $600 million aggregate limitation.

Sec. 1103. Increases the five-year, $21.3 million limitation on in-vehicle anti-DUI research to a six-year, $26.6 million limitation.

Sec. 1104. (a) repeals subsection (d) of 49 U.S.C. §24321, which would otherwise cut off Amtrak subsidies for losses on food and beverage service on December 4, 2020. (b) Extends the sunset date of the RRIF subprogram for development-oriented loans from September 30, 2020 to September 30, 2021.

Sec. 1105. Suspends the application of 23 U.S.C. §105, which would otherwise require the general fund bailout transfer in section 1204 to be apportioned to states and transit agencies as new, spendable money.

Sec. 1106. Suspends the application of the “Rostenkowski Test” for HTF Mass Transit Account self-sufficiency for fiscal year 2021.

Sec. 1107. Extends expiring Appalachian Regional Commission funding authorizations from September 30, 2020 to September 30, 2021.

Sec. 1201. Extends the expiration date of Highway Trust Fund spending authority by one year.

Sec. 1202. Extends the expiration date of Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund spending authority by one year.

Sec. 1203. Extends Leaking Underground Storage Tank spending authority by one year.

Sec. 1204. Transfers $10.4 billion from the general fund of the Treasury to the Highway Account of the HTF. Transfers $3.2 billion from the general fund of the Treasury to the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund.

Sec. 1205. Transfers $14.0 billion from the general fund of the Treasury to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.

The extension passed by the House has one change from an earlier draft – the earlier draft extended the highway excise taxes, which are set to expire on October 1, 2022, for one year. The final version does not extend the taxes – however, obviously, this is a situation which can be dealt with later.

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