Oregon governor signs $1 billion transportation bill with weight-mile tax increase

| 7/30/2009

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Wednesday, July 29, signed into law the biggest transportation package in the state’s history. It raises gas taxes, weight-mile taxes and vehicle fees to generate $300 million annually for road and bridge fixes.

As part of the Jobs and Transportation Act, which calls for more than $1 billion in infrastructure funding, 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 January 2011.

Truckers will pay a proportional increase in weight-mile taxes. Also included are increases in vehicle registration and vehicle title fees that take effect this fall.

Mindful of the public’s lack of appetite for more taxes and fees, Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said in the time leading up to the governor signing the bill that lawmakers were left to 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.

Previously HB2001, the transportation package 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.

“This bill represents a fundamental shift in how we approach transportation so that we are investing in all modes of transportation comprehensively – thus strengthening our economy,” Kulongoski said in a written statement.

The state’s rest areas also will get a shot in the arm. The transportation package includes $3 million a year for upkeep of the facilities.

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.