Higher fuel tax among options to pay for roads, bridges in Vermont

| 8/21/2007

The top Democrat in the Vermont House says “all options are on the table” as the state searches for how to pay for repairs and upgrades to roads and bridges.

House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, says the state’s transportation system is in a crisis. House and Senate lawmakers need to put aside politics and focus on how to pay for repair work that the state estimates will cost $140 million annually to fix, Symington told the Rutland Herald.

She is refuting allegations from Republicans in the state that she is considering higher fuel tax rates to pay for the work. Symington and other Democrats say increasing the state’s 20-cent-per-gallon gas tax and 26-cent diesel tax is just one of the options worth considering.

A one-cent fuel tax increase would amount to an additional $3.5 million in revenues for the state.

House Minority Leader Steve Adams, R-Hartland, said he is against higher fuel taxes. He cited the effect on low-to-moderate income residents already having a tough time with fuel prices and other rising costs, The Associated Press reported.

Instead, Adams backs a Vermont Agency of Transportation proposal to tap existing state revenue for road and bridge work.

Republicans in the statehouse aren’t the only ones to distance themselves from talk of a fuel tax increase. Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, left no room for debate about how he feels about the issue.

“Who wants a gas tax?” Shumlin said to the Herald. “I don’t want a damn gas tax.”

The issue likely will draw a lot of discussion once the 2008 regular session begins in January.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Vermont in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor