Vermont's new transportation budget: no increase in fuel taxes

| Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas has approved a new state budget that includes more money for transportation work throughout the state. Truckers and other drivers may pay some higher fees, but won't have to pay higher fuel taxes to help foot the cost.

The budget bill – H869 – was intended to help the state pay for transportation projects and meet federal cost-sharing requirements. To receive the state's full share of money appropriated by Congress for road and bridge projects during the next five years, the state is required to pay 20 percent of the overall cost.

To help meet that requirement, Douglas sought to redirect about $28 million from the state's education fund back to transportation, the Rutland Herald reported. Lawmakers, however, said it wasn't viable to take back the dollars for road and bridgework.

Another failed plan to match federal funding requirements was to include a 6-cent increase in the state's per-gallon diesel tax, which would increase it to 31 cents. The tax on gasoline would have increased 4 cents to 24 cents.

The Republican governor and senators, however, were against increasing fuel taxes. They said it would be considered political suicide with prices at the pump at or near record highs, the Burlington Free Press reported.

In the end, lawmakers agreed to charge residents higher fees for driver's licenses and vehicle registrations to help pay for road and bridge work. They also decided to postpone certain projects and tap other general accounts. In addition, they shifted rest area expenses out of the transportation fund.

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