June 2014 – CBO Report – “The federal government spends more than $50 billion per year on surface transportation programs, mostly in the form of grants to state and local governments. Much of this spending is for highways and mass transit programs financed through the Highway Trust Fund. Those programs have an unusual treatment in the federal budget, and the way they are classified in the budget facilitates the spending of more money from the trust fund than there are dedicated revenues to support such spending. Those revenues come from excise taxes on the sale of motor fuels, trucks and trailers, and truck tires, and from taxes on the use of certain kinds of vehicles. This CBO report describes the status of the Highway Trust Fund and options that the Congress might consider to address the imbalance between revenues and spending from the fund. Part of the discussion concerns the transportation programs’ unique budgetary classification and how that treatment limits the effectiveness of the standard mechanisms for budgetary control. In the past 10 years, outlays from the Highway Trust Fund have exceeded revenues by more than $52 billion, and outlays will exceed revenues by an estimated $167 billion over the 2015–2024 period if obligations from the fund continue at the 2014 rate (with adjustments for future inflation) and the expiring taxes on fuels and heavy vehicles are extended at their current rates.”
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