Highway Trust Fund Collections Drop Nearly $3 Billion in 2008

September 28, 2010

Highway Trust Fund revenue dropped steeply in September, closing out a fiscal year in which high gasoline prices and a weak economy led to less driving, less fuel being purchased, and thus a decline in fuel taxes collected, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Estimates just released by the U.S. Treasury Department indicate the Highway Trust Fund collected $5.439 billion last month, a 9.6 percent decline from the $6.016 billion in receipts from September 2007. The trust fund last month also received an emergency deposit of $8.017 billion in general revenue that Congress authorized to prevent the fund’s Highway Account from running out of money.

Aside from last month’s special infusion of cash, the Highway Trust Fund collected $36.387 billion in Fiscal Year 2008, which ended Sept. 30. That’s a decline of $2.977 billion (7.6 percent) from the revenue collected during Fiscal Year 2007.

The trust fund ended FY 2008 with a balance of $12.811 billion – reflecting the $8.017 billion emergency deposit and a surplus mostly from the fund’s Mass Transit Account. By law, 80 percent of trust fund revenues are placed in the Highway Account and 20 percent in the Mass Transit Account. The transit account has built up a surplus because of slower payouts for authorized rail and bus projects.

Both accounts are expected to stay solvent through the end of Fiscal Year 2009, though a continued decline in revenue could once again threaten the Highway Account’s ability to promptly reimburse state transportation departments for their federally funded projects.

Numbers published this week by the Treasury Department are estimates. The final figures will not be available until January.