CBO To Release New Highway Trust Fund Forecast Next Week

January 25, 2019

The Congressional Budget Office will release its annual Budget and Economic Outlook on Monday, January 28. This will be accompanied by CBO’s preliminary spending and revenue baseline for the fiscal year 2020-2029 period, the release of which should include an updated forecast of Highway Trust Fund cash flow for the coming decade.

The spending baseline contained in the annual January Outlook is not the final baseline used in scoring legislation within Congress under the Budget Act – that baseline can’t be completed until after the President releases his annual budget request. This is not because of anything that the budget requests for the coming year but because the annual budget submission also includes a wealth of data on what actually happened in the prior year – how programs behaved, how the demographics of entitlement programs changed or are expected to change, how federal loan recipients managed their payments, etc.

Since the submission of the budget is indefinitely delayed due to the government shutdown, the completion of the final baseline is presumably delayed as well.

The Highway Trust Fund forecast will have to be redone, for example, once fiscal 2019 appropriations for the Department of Transportation are finally enacted. The projections to be released on Monday will use the last continuing resolution as a starting point (presumably) which will reflect fiscal 2018 spending levels as a starting point and then increase those each year for inflation. If we ever get a full-year appropriations bill in place for FY 2019, the spending levels in that law will be used as the starting point in the revised baseline.

But the updated excise tax forecast for the Trust Fund to be released next week should remain relatively intact in the final baseline and will give us updated numbers for how much money each cent-per-gallon of the gasoline and diesel excise taxes is expected to raise in the future, which will give us a better handle on how much money will be raised by specific proposals to increase the gas tax.



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