North Dakota legislators work on differences over fuel tax

| 4/22/2005

Lawmakers in North Dakota are struggling to reach an agreement on whether the state’s fuel tax should be increased to pay for roadwork.

House and Senate negotiators are trying to work out the final details of the state Department of Transportation’s budget bill. They want to raise enough state money to get the maximum share of federal highway aid, The Associated Press reported.

The three House members favor a higher fuel tax. They have proposed hiking it by up to 4 cents a gallon. North Dakota’s tax on diesel and gasoline is now 21 cents a gallon.

Rep. Robin Weisz, R-Hurdsfield, told the news agency a fuel tax increase would lessen the blow to residents in the state by requiring out-of-state drivers to pitch in.

Senators, however, worry that fuel stops along the Minnesota border would be hurt by a tax increase. Minnesota’s tax is now 20 cents a gallon.

Sen. Tom Trenbeath, R-Cavalier, said stations along the border wouldn’t be able to increase fuel prices out of fear drivers would fill their tanks across the state line.

The budget bill – SB2012 – also includes a provision to increase motor vehicle registration rates by $10. It would generate about $15 million over two years.

State lawmakers raised registration for most vehicles by $7 in 2001 and $3 in 2003.

Registration fee amounts depend on a vehicle’s age and weight.

Negotiators continue to discuss the budget as the Legislature prepares to wrap up work by month’s end.