Only a few days remain until the current highway and public transit law – the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act – expires on September 30. AGC is cautiously optimistic that Congress will extend the FAST Act for one-year (through fiscal year 2021). The extension would likely be considered as part of legislation to temporarily fund the federal government, known as a continuing resolution (CR). However, there is one outstanding issue that key negotiators need to resolve. They need to decide how much money should be deposited into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) so that it can support the funding levels in the extension. Making this decision more complicated is the fact that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), which monitor the overall financial health of the HTF, differ significantly on the amount of money required.
The CBO estimates that approximately $1.4 billion is needed, plus an additional $5 billion to maintain a prudent cash balance, which brings the total amount to approximately $6.4 billion. However, DOT estimates that approximately $19 billion is needed. Further complicating matters is whether or not certain negotiators will insist that any amount be “paid for.”
AGC does not expect any emergency funding for state departments of transportation and public transit agencies to be included in the CR. Key players in Congress and the Trump Administration agreed that the CR would be “clean” and not include any policy or funding issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. AGC will continue to urge Congress to pass a one-year extension with the maximum amount of money possible for the HTF in order to provide certainty to the construction industry.