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Highway Trust Fund in Trouble

nssgaFebruary 3, 2011 – Folks, the Highway Trust Fund is running dry. And something has to be done about it soon. According to NSSGA, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its annual Budget and Economic Outlook report for the next 10 fiscal years, which includes an updated assessment of the Highway Trust Fund. In its previous report last summer, CBO projected the Highway Trust Fund’s Highway account to be solvent through the end of fiscal year 2013. But the revised estimate now suggests the account may be unable to meet obligations in a timely manner sometime during fiscal year 2012. Congress authorized General Fund transfers of $8 billion in fiscal year 2008, $7 billion in fiscal year 2009 and $19.5 billion in fiscal year 2010 to ensure Highway Trust Fund solvency until the hoped-for-passage of a surface transportation reauthorization bill.

In the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30, CBO projects a national deficit of $1.48 trillion, or $414 billion more than it estimated last August – prior to the tax deal reached between President Obama and GOP leaders in Congress during the lame-duck session.  For fiscal 2012, for which the president will submit his budget proposal later this month, CBO’s baseline now projects a deficit of $1.1 trillion, or $665 billion more than expected.

Prior to the release of its annual outlook, CBO also issued a report on Spending and Funding for Highways in which it discussed the future role of the federal government in our nation’s transportation infrastructure and the challenges facing this Congress as it considers reauthorization legislation. CBO sees three important questions for lawmakers: how to structure decision making about highway projects; how much money to spend on highways; and how to pay for that spending.  Although not groundbreaking in its analysis, the report reinforces the importance of swift enactment of a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill.