New details from Trump budget pose grim outlook for Highway Trust Fund

Payments on work completed could be subject to significant delays

March 20, 2019
White House FY 2020 budget

The Trump administration recently released further information regarding the president's FY 2020 budget, which includes impacts on the annual Highway Trust Fund balances and outlay projections, a new report from ARTBA says.

The new details could pose a problem for the Highway Trust Fund, which is projected to run out by 2021 without additional revenues. Projections were made for the future of the Fund if the full budget request were followed through 2029.

One of the outcomes would be that spending authority for highway and transit programs given to states and localities would be frozen at FY 2020 levels through FY 2029, with no adjustments for inflation. Additionally, reimbursements to states and localities for work completed to existing Highway Trust Fund revenues would be limited. Lastly, payments on work completed would be subject to significant delays—possibly up to three years—totaling $146 billion through the end of 2029. 

This scenario looks different than what the administration laid out in the president's FY 2019 budget request as well as earlier GOP congressional budgets, which called for a 40% cut in core federal highway and transit funding by lowering spending authority to what future Highway Trust Fund levels could support. The difference in the FY 2020 White House budget is that it would grant states and transit agencies authority to spend, but they would not be paid in a timely manner.

ARTBA says that while the president's budget is little more than a messaging document unlikely to be followed by Congress, it provides a reminder for the need to address the Highway Trust Fund this year. The associations warns that otherwise, the industry could expect to be facing massive cuts or multi-year delays in payment for work completed as the new normal.

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Source: ARTBA

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