Concerns regarding the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund have increased in the wake of President Trump’s proposal for using a different formula to pay for highway upgrading projects across the country.
In his 2019 fiscal year budget, the President called for $122 billion to go into the trust fund, but also proposed allocating $200 billion for infrastructure spending with an emphasis on shared state and local transportation spending.
The Highway Trust Fund, established in the late 1950s, receives money from a federal gasoline and diesel fuel tax that is, in turn, used to pay for work on the country’s massive Interstate Highway System.
But Senator Susan Collins, who heads up the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, has said in a statement that the President’s approach to investing in transportation projects “fails to address the greatest threat to our nation’s infrastructure, which is the ever-growing insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.”
Collins said the administration’s infrastructure proposals will “slash the federal cost share of the highway projects from the current 80 percent down to 20 percent, and require state and local governments to raise their own revenue to make up for the shortfall.”
The Maine Senator added that unless Washington can identify new funding for the Highway Trust Fund, the “Administration’s proposal would simply lead to an abdication of the federal role in transportation,” and a devolution to the states that she said is “simply not feasible.”
More than 25 percent of the Trust Fund, according to the Congressional Budget Office, comes from the country’s gasoline and diesel taxes.
Those taxes are set at 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel fuel.
Analysts have suggested that a one-cent increase in such taxes could raise new revenue for the Trust Fund by anywhere from $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion annually.
By Garry Boulard
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