The highway funds will be distributed to states by the same formula that was used to distribute stimulus funds previously provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). States are not required to provide any matching dollars to be eligible to receive these funds, and would be required to have 50% of the funds under contract within 90 days or lose the remaining funds (to be redistributed to states that have met this requirement). The second 50% must be under contract within one year or be lost to other successful states.
This is a far more stringent requirement than ARRA, which required funds to be “obligated” rather than under contract. Many of the other provisions related to the use of ARRA funds are included. These funds are provided on top of funding that comes through the traditional program.
Also included in the bill is an extension of highway and transit program authorization through Sept. 30, 2010, at current levels and provides additional Highway Trust Fund revenue to fund these programs. Since SAFETEA-LU expired on Sept. 30, 2009, these programs have been extended on a short-term basis at a funding level that is significantly below the FY 2009 authorized level. H.R. 2847 will increase funding by $10.7 billion, which almost matches the FY 2009 authorized level. The bill also includes provisions to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund. It restores $19.5 billion in interest payments foregone on the HTF’s previous cash balances, and restores authority for HTF balances to receive interest payments in the future. The bill alters the way in which long-standing fuel-tax exemptions provided to state and local governments are accounted for, which are projected to increase HTF balances by about $1.7 billion annually, for a total of $9.8 billion over six years. In addition, as with the stimulus dollars, the legislation waives the requirement that states provide matching revenue to receive these funds.
The bill is not expected to be taken up in the Senate until after the first of the year. Until such time, another short-term extension is required to ensure that program funding is not cut off, and, therefore, the House also passed a 60-day authorization and attached it to the Defense Department appropriation bill which the Senate must now approve. (A separate five-day extension also was necessary to allow the Senate time to act on the 60-day measure).