Wyoming DOT says governor's road plan falls short

| Monday, November 06, 2006

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal's suggestion to give the state's Department of Transportation an additional $162 million in highway funding for the coming fiscal year has been described as a good start, but still not enough. Another option that is being discussed to generate revenue is increasing the state's fuel tax.

Chief WYDOT Engineer Del McOmie said the extra money the governor has proposed would help the department with its backlog of projects. But McOmie said a comprehensive plan to increase highway funding for the long term is needed, The Associated Press reported.

State highway officials have said that $500 million is needed during the next two years to meet the state's transportation needs. Part of the funding problem stems from higher construction costs combined with federal cutbacks, as well as other factors.

Freudenthal has proposed to redirect money that the Wyoming Legislature early this year earmarked for permanent savings and use it for improvements to highways and airports.

Freudenthal said he would prefer that lawmakers adjust the state's funding formula to put more money from the state's severance tax receipts directly into highways, The AP reported.

Members of the House Revenue Committee have offered their own plans to help pay for needed roadwork.

Rep. Tom Walsh, R-Casper, is working on a bill that would divert $220 million from the state's mineral revenues to transportation.

Two other efforts drawing consideration before the panel would increase the state's per-gallon fuel tax. One proposal would increase the tax by 2 cents per gallon next year and by 3 cents per gallon in 2008. The second measure would impose the 5-cents-per-gallon increase next year.

The Legislature is expected to consider these and other proposals once they convene the regular session that begins Jan. 9, 2007.

If all else fails, Freudenthal said he will continue to proposed one-time funding increases.

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