While a Congressional impasse on funding the federal government beyond September 30 will generate heightened uncertainty for the nation, key surface transportation programs should continue to function normally, according the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
[Above photo by AASHTO]
AASHTO noted that, historically, the House of Representatives and the Senate have relied on a Continuing Resolution or CR to fund federal agencies and related programs to start the new federal fiscal year until full-year appropriations bills are passed – with such “stop-gap” funding measures lasting 113 days on average between 1998 and 2023.
However, this year the House continues to have difficulties passing a CR necessary to buy more time for approving all 12 of the full fiscal year 2024 spending bills, including the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies or THUD appropriations bill.
[Editor’s note: AASHTO sent Congressional leaders a letter on September 22 calling on them to avoid a shutdown by passing the necessary appropriations measures.]
The organization said that, in the event of a government shutdown, federal agencies must discontinue all non-essential functions supported by discretionary appropriations until new funding legislation is passed and signed into law.
Yet essential services such as border protection, in-hospital medical care, air traffic control, law enforcement, and power grid maintenance will continue to function, as will mandatory spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and trust funds such as the Highway Trust Fund, which provides monies to the states for roadway and transit needs.
In preparation for the possible government shutdown, the White House Office of Management and Budget has created an inventory of federal agency contingency plans due to a lapse in appropriations. According to USDOT’s FY 2024 contingency plan, the impact of the shutdown at the department will vary, with 18,744 employees estimated to be furloughed out of 55,420 total employees – with 17,251 of those furloughs occurring at the Federal Aviation Administration alone.
Staff funded through the Highway Trust Fund at the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Federal Transit Administration should remain unaffected by the shutdown.
Where state departments of transportation are concerned, processing of FHWA and FTA dollars should remain unaffected. In addition, activities and personnel funded by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA via advance appropriations are exempted from the shutdown, such as the FHWA’s Bridge Investment and National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure formula programs and the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail at the Federal Railroad Administration, continuing as normal.
However, AASHTO stressed that this year’s shutdown situation is complicated by the expiration of current FAA authorities on September 30. Congress needs to pass an FAA extension by that date or a government shutdown will significantly expand the impact to FAA and aviation broadly, including those funded through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, the group noted.