Vermont lawmakers from the state’s House and Senate began
negotiations last week to figure out how to pay for road and bridge work in the
Debate in a conference committee
will focus on whether taxes should be increased to help pay for transportation
projects and secure federal funding.
The Democratic-led House approved
a transportation budget that included a 6-cent increase in the state’s per
gallon diesel tax, which would raise it to 31 cents. The tax on gasoline would
increase 4 cents to 24 cents.
Republican Gov. James Douglas and
senators, however, are against increasing fuel taxes. Instead, they want to
raise $11.8 million from motor vehicle fees, postpone $4 million in project
costs and tap other general accounts for $7 million, the Burlington Free
The House plan also includes an
increase in the motor vehicle fees that would generate $5.8 million.
Officials with AAA of Northern New
England have an idea they hope will help. Tom Williams, a spokesperson for the
advocacy group, said the state could qualify for $3.7 million in federal
funding for safety improvements if it adopts a primary seat-belt rule, the Rutland
Herald reported. But legislative leaders have been cool to that idea.
The problem for lawmakers is
figuring out how to compensate for declining revenues from the existing fuel
taxes that have the state’s Transportation Agency short of money. If a solution
can be found, the state would stand to claim $300 million during the next five
years that Congress appropriated for Vermont under the condition the state pay
its share of projects, up to 20 percent of the overall cost.
The budget bill is H869.