The Highway Trust Fund was established in 1956 as the method for paying for the construction of the Interstate Highway System. The primary source of revenue comes from the gas tax, which was last increased in 1993. Since 2008, the Highway Trust Fund has required $53.3 billion in transfers from the federal government’s general fund in order to meet its obligations. Based on current spending and revenue trends, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Congressional Budget Office estimate that the highway account of the Highway Trust Fund will encounter a revenue shortfall before the end of the 2014 fiscal year – Sept. 30 – and the transit account will only have $440 million at the end of FY 2014.
Now, Congress must find additional revenue to support the Highway Trust Fund. If Congress fails to do that, the trust fund will not be able to fund any new or ongoing construction projects starting in 2015. This equates to a $51 billion cut to federal transportation programs. In order to avoid these draconian cuts, Congress and the administration must act to address the HTF revenue shortfall before September.
Hardhats for Highways Message:
- Multiyear Authorization: At the expiration of MAP-21, a long-term transportation reauthorization measure needs to be in place. States need to know that they will have the revenue needed to continue the highway, bridge and transit construction that they have planned. Congress must return to long-term transportation authorizations (five- or six-years are typical and necessary). This multiyear certainty will allow state departments of transportation the ability to make long-term transportation plans and give contractors the confidence to hire additional workers and buy equipment.
- Increase Transportation Investment: Maintain the nation’s commitment to transportation investment by retaining the gas tax and increasing it. If Congress cannot increase the gas tax, they need to identify a way to increase funding to make up for the 80 percent loss in buying power since the gas tax was last increased in 1993. Congress should consider a fee based on vehicle miles traveled, a sales tax on fuel sales, wholesale motor fuel fee, oil exploration fees, fees on natural gas used for transportation and others. The goal should be fully covering the cost of the transportation system that our country needs without deficit financing.