By David Tanner
In September 2008, Congress enacted an emergency measure to restore $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund to keep it afloat.
And now the fund could be headed for the red again as soon as August of this year, according to transportation officials on Capitol Hill.
The Highway Trust Fund takes in taxes from fuel and highway user fees and doles the money out to states for transportation projects. For a while now, the fund has been paying out more than it has been taking in.
In early June, the Obama administration briefed Senate lawmakers about the likely need for a short-term cash infusion while Congress debates long-term measures in the next authorization bill.
Word on the Hill was that the Highway Trust Fund could run into the negative sometime in August without a fix of between $5 billion and $7 billion.
OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce said transportation lawmakers are aware of the pendulum shift and the urgency to deal with it.
“We certainly wouldn’t want anything to happen that would hamper projects in the pipeline right now when our economy needs construction and infrastructure improvement,” Joyce told Land Line.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the Trust Fund declined $1.37 billion, or 5.4 percent, from fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2008. The numbers indicate similar projections for 2009.
While some on Capitol Hill blame the decline on miles traveled, the FHWA reported that mileage accounted for just $580 million of the $1.37 billion shortfall in 2008.
Almost $763 million of the shortfall was because fewer new trucks and heavy equipment were sold and the 12 percent excise tax on that equipment was not collected.
Tire taxes accounted for $29.8 million of the shortfall, while the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax declined by $1.3 million, all indicators of tough economic times for truckers.
The move by Congress to put $8 billion into the Trust Fund in 2008 was actually a restoration of funds that were previously diverted to uses other than highways. LL