Set up in 1956, the Highway Trust Fund uses federal excise taxes on fuel to provide money for the construction and maintenance of federally controlled roads. The government also funds the HTF through truck-related taxes.
“Receipts from the HTF are derived from two main sources: federal excise taxes on motor fuels (gasoline, diesel, and special fuels taxes) and truck-related taxes (truck and trailer sales, truck tire, and heavy-vehicle use taxes)” according to the Jan. 16 report. “Motor fuels tax receipts constitute the single largest source of HTF revenue. The Highway Account receives the majority of the tax receipts allocated to the fund.”
In other words, the more gas taxes a motorist pays to the federal government, the more he or she is paying into the HTF.
According to Treasury Statements from FY 2009-2011, the U.S. government received approximately $106.9 billion in excise taxes that went to the HTF.
A May 2012 report from the Congressional Budget Office noted that for much of the past decade, the Highway Trust Fund’s outlays have exceeded receipts. In recent years, the shortfall has been covered by transfers from the U.S. Treasury’s general fund.
“Policies that are designed to reduce gasoline consumption, including those that would impose stricter standards for the fuel economy of vehicles, could decrease revenues for the trust fund and thus could add to the shortfall,” the CBO said.
On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (MAP-21), which authorized $40.4 billion from the HTF for highway projects in FY 2013, and another $41 billion for FY 2014.
Although the GAO report only analyzed the use of HTF funds between FY 2009-2011, MAP-21 now requires GAO to report on instances when HTF money is not used for construction and maintenance of highways and bridges.