Highway Trust Fund Rescission

The Honorable Rob Woodall
U.S. House of Representatives
1724 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Woodall:

The National Governors Association (NGA), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) write to express our appreciation and support for your Amendment Number 43 to Division H of the House Rules Committee Print 115-31, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018.

It deeply concerns us that the proposed House Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations package for FY 2018 includes an $800 million rescission of unobligated highway contract authority, which is a unique form of budget authority specifically for long-term highway capital investments. Contract authority represents authorized funding received by state departments of transportation under federal surface transportation authorization bills such as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. The THUD language would require a proportional take-back of contract authority from only a subsection of federal highway programs, thereby prohibiting states from rescinding contract authority in a manner that would not disrupt transportation planning and the timely delivery of critical transportation infrastructure projects.

The FY 2018 House THUD bill is not the first time Congress has looked to rescind unobligated highway contract authority. In fact, starting from 2002, over $30 billion of highway dollars will be rescinded by 2020 (see enclosed chart). These cumulative rescissions are having a serious impact on the ability of states to best address their individual infrastructure needs, and further continuation of rescissions may lead to complete depletion of available contract authority by 2020. This would be unprecedented and lead to serious highway funding cuts just when our nation is looking to renew our investment in infrastructure. The attached illustrative table shows the estimated dollar impact for each state.

While NGA, NCSL, and AASHTO do not support the inclusion of highway contract authority rescission in the House THUD bill in the first place, it is important that if it must take place, states should be provided the full flexibility to implement the rescission in order to minimize its harmful effects of disinvestment and disruption. Your amendment would give every state DOT that crucial flexibility to rescind contract authority from a broader set of surface transportation program categories, while removing the “dollar-for-dollar” proportionality requirement across the affected program categories.

If your amendment is adopted and ultimately enacted, we firmly believe that each state will be in the best position to holistically evaluate how to distribute the highway contract authority rescission across various program categories in the manner that results in least harm to its overall transportation investment program.

Thank you for your consideration, and please don’t hesitate to contact Joung Lee of AASHTO, Caroline Sevier of NGA, or Ben Husch of NCSL if you have any questions.

Scott D. Pattison
Executive Director and CEO
National Governors Association

William T. Pound
Executive Director
National Conference of State Legislatures

Bud Wright
Executive Director
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials