Texas Standing Alone – Still

Written by  BILL HALE, P.E. CHIEF ENGINEER TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Texas Alone

In Federal Fiscal Year 2019, Texas will receive only 95 cents in transportation funding from the federal Highway Trust Fund for every dollar Texans paid directly into the Fund. That means Texas stands alone – still – as the last ‘donor’ state as a result of the outdated apportionment of federal highway funding.

Put another way, Texas contributed 11.17% of all federal fuel taxes paid into the Highway Trust Fund, but only received back 8.95% of the total apportionments, equating to the lowest rate-of-return of any state at just a little over 80%. By this calculation, Texas is shortchanged by up to $940 million in federal fiscal year 2019.

To build up transportation coffers, Texas voters added long-term funding solutions that dedicate new state transportation dollars to address congestion and improve our aging infrastructure. Proposition 1 in 2014 and Proposition 7 in 2015 – non-tax increases – were overwhelmingly supported, both by over 80 percent.

The reason this additional funding was approved is obvious: our roads and highways need it to keep up with demand. The state’s population is growing. Between July 2017 and July 2018, 1,039 people per day were added to the state’s population. And today, Texas is home to an estimated 28 million people. But while our population is increasing, federal funding formulas have not kept pace. When Congress last developed these formulas, 2000 Census data was used to calculate funding.

Funding formulas for the federal-aid highway program were historically based on performance and equityrelated metrics – like population data and a state’s total lane miles – that was updated yearly. However, under current authorization legislation – the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act – annual updates to these metrics were discontinued. Under FAST, the base calculation for a state’s apportionment is now determined by the amount of apportionments a state received in fiscal year 2015. And here is where it gets more complicated: while the year is set at 2015, funding is actually tied to the amount states received in 2009, under formulas set out in previously authorized legislation, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users.

Additionally, SAFETEA-LU contained $4.4 billion in earmarked funds for some states and these earmarks are used to compute the share each state continues to receive. This boils down to the fact that the current formula distribution of over $42 billion in annual transportation funding apportionments to states is derived from formula data that was frozen in 2009 and continues to reflect additional funding levels that states received from congressional earmarks in 2009 as well.

So, exactly what does this mean for transportation in Texas in federal fiscal year 2019? Texas will give $3.99 billion in federal fuel taxes and other deposits to Washington, Standing Alone – Still and get $3.79 billion in return. And what’s more, the Federal Highway Administration will use billions of general fund revenue dollars to support the Highway Trust Fund apportionments and Texas will effectively receive none of these funds.

This creates a challenge for our state to deliver a first-rate transportation system. And that is not lost on our Texas Congresssional delegation. Elected leaders from both chambers are championing the state’s cause of fairness as Congress considers transportation funding measures this year, including reauthorization of the Federal Highway Program that will expire in 2020.

For more information about this issue, go to www.txdot.gov/FederalFairShare, #FairShare4TxRoads.



MediaEDGE Logo sml