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AASHTO Journal

CBO: Highway Account Faces Possible Insolvency Next Fiscal Year

The Highway Trust Fund's Highway Account might be unable to meet obligations in a timely manner sometime during Fiscal Year 2012 and the Transit Account will run dry sometime during Fiscal Year 2013, the Congressional Budget Office projected in a report released Wednesday.

"We appreciate the Congressional Budget Office alerting us as to how long current resources in the Highway Trust Fund can sustain authorized levels of federal assistance," said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. "Together with CBO and USDOT, we will be monitoring revenues and outlays in the months ahead to see whether the trust fund will be able to support highway funding all of the way through FY 2012 or not. The encouraging news from CBO is that transit funding looks secure at least until 2013."

Congress authorized transfers of $8 billion in general revenue in FY 2008, $7 billion in FY 2009, and $19.5 billion in FY 2010 to ensure Highway Trust Fund solvency. No General Fund transfers are expected this fiscal year as there is a high enough balance remaining from last year's transfer to keep the fund solvent into next fiscal year. 

CBO projects that consumption of motor fuel in the United States will be relatively stable this year but that receipts from gasoline and diesel taxes (18.4 and 24.4 cents per gallon, respectively) will decrease by 1%.

The office forecasts that receipts from fuel taxes that support the Highway Trust Fund will increase by an annual rate of more than 10% in FY 2012 and FY 2013, mostly due to the scheduled 2011 expiration of tax credits for ethanol-blended fuels. Fuel-tax revenue is then expected to grow about 1% annually for the FY 2014-21 period. 

"This CBO report highlights the need for the enactment of a long-term highway and transit reauthorization that gives states certainty as to the funds they can count on," Horsley said.

CBO's 190-page document, "The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2011 to 2021," is available at bit.ly/CBO2011-21. Fuel-tax revenue projects can be found on Pages 101-102 and Highway Trust Fund projects are located on Pages 122-124.

1/28/2011
Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.