A new Congressional Budget Office analysis adds yet another wrinkle to the ongoing debate about the surface transportation legislation: the House Republicans' bill would bankrupt the Highway Trust Fund by 2016.
The study, being promoted by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), ranking member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, seemingly confirms what some critics have been saying for weeks: House Republicans can't deliver the revenue they'd promised for transportation. "There is no doubt we need to pass a long-term bill that creates certainty, but the only thing this bill does is make certain the Highway Trust Fund will go belly up even before the end of the bill," Rahall said in a statement. The House's five-year, $260 billion bill -- which is headed Tuesday to the House Rules Committee, which will consider a slew of amendments -- is controversial since Republicans are funding highways and bridges with revenue that would be generated by expanded energy production. CBO's informal estimate, shows the trust fund's highway account having a year-end deficit of $500 million at the end of FY 2016 that grows each year through FY 2022. The "alternative transportation account" -- a new version of the transit account -- starts going into the red in FY 2017. At the end of FY 2022 the two accounts together would be $78 billion in the hole. An aide to the committee's Republican majority tells Governing that lawmakers believe CBO's math was wrong, and its analysts did not give as much credit for energy revenues as they should have. Republicans will work to address the discrepancy without borrowing money or raising taxes, the aide said.