October 12, 2011

GAO Report: Every State Receives More Highway Funding than it Contributes to the Highway Trust Fund

Washington, D.C. – Over the course of the last multi-year surface transportation authorization (SAFETEA-LU) from 2005 to 2009, every state received more funding for highway programs than what they contributed to the Highway Trust Fund, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report being released today that was requested by U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Instead of being consumed by the parochial ‘donor’ and ‘donee’ debate, this GAO report confirms that Congress should be working toward crafting a surface transportation bill that meets the needs of a 21st century national transportation system,” said Rahall.  “Using rate of return as our rationale for how we spend our limited transportation dollars simply detracts from the national focus when we ought to look at the larger picture and determine what investments best help create American jobs and grow our economy.”

The most recent long-term surface transportation authorization, the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU),” authorized $197.5 billion for the Federal-Aid Highway Program for Fiscal Years 2005 through 2009.  The GAO studied the state allocations using data by the Federal Highway Administration and found that every state received at least as much back from the highway program as it contributed in gas taxes.

“From 2005 to 2009, every state received more funding for highway programs than they contributed to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund,” concluded GAO in its report.  “Using rate of return as a major factor in determining highway funding poses challenges related to performance and accountability in the highway program; in effect, rate of return calculations override other considerations to yield a largely predetermined outcome—that of returning revenues to their state of origin.”