Oregon lawmakers OK transportation bill with weight-mile tax increase

| 6/5/2009

A transportation package in Oregon, which is one step from becoming law, raises gas taxes, weight-mile taxes and vehicle fees.

The Oregon Senate voted 24-6 to advance House Bill 2001 to Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s desk for his signature. House lawmakers had already approved the governor’s initiative to raise $300 million annually for transportation.

As part of the bill, the state’s 24-cent-per-gallon gas tax will increase by 6 cents, but not right away. The boost will be triggered either after two straight quarters of employment growth or by Jan. 2011.

Truckers will pay a proportional increase in weight-mile taxes. Also included in the bill are increases in vehicle registration and vehicle title fees.

Mindful of the public’s lack of appetite for more taxes and fees, Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said lawmakers must choose between many difficult options.

“In these tough times we cannot allow Oregon to get stuck in traffic. This transportation package keeps our state moving by building roads and bridges, creating thousands of jobs, and reducing greenhouse gases,” Courtney said in a written statement.

The bill uses an additional $100 million for rail, marine, air, transit and train projects. And it uses $70 million annually to bond $1 billion worth of road projects to reduce congestion and improve freight mobility.

Cities and counties will split about $140 million annually to maintain roads and fund additional projects in local communities.

“In rural counties, the need for this is clear,” said Rep. Cliff Benz, R-Ontario.

Also included in the bill is a provision providing $3 million a year for upkeep of rest areas.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Oregon in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.