Wyoming panel tabs severance tax to help pay for highway work

| 8/12/2008

A legislative panel in Wyoming is talking over plans to tap into severance tax revenue to help pay for widening and expanding some of the state’s more congested highways.

The Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Interim Committee is expected to sponsor legislation during the next regular session that would send a portion of the state’s severance tax revenue for highway work.

Severance taxes are levied on resources extracted in the state. It is estimated the allocation for road construction could amount to $10 million to $15 million annually.

Even with the infusion of funds, officials with the Wyoming Department of Transportation say they need an additional $250 million a year to keep up with needed road and bridge work.

WYDOT officials blame increased traffic, heavier vehicles, fewer federal dollars and escalating construction costs for the pressing need for more highway maintenance.

The panel is expected to give special attention to sections of highway where traffic volume has reached, or is approaching, full capacity.

If approved, the bill would divert a portion of the tax revenue that now is funneled into the Legislature’s reserve fund and earmark it for highways. Some of that amount would be deposited into an existing multilane highway account that has not been funded, Casper’s Star-Tribune reported.

The Legislature is expected to consider this and other proposals once the new session begins in Jan. 13, 2009.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Wyoming in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor