Wyoming fuel tax hike, I-80 toll effort killed

| 2/4/2011

An effort to boost fuel tax revenue in Wyoming has been put to rest. A push to toll Interstate 80 was also squelched.

The House voted 47-13 on Wednesday, Feb. 2, to kill a bill that sought to phase in a dime increase in the state?s fuel tax.

Since 1998, truckers and other drivers have paid a 14-cent-per-gallon tax at the fuel pump. The bill ? HB22 ? called for increasing the tax rate to 24 cents during the next three years.

The state?s 14-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel and gas would have increased to 24 cents in three steps. It would have risen to 17 cents the first year. It would have increased another 3 cents the following year and another 4 cents in the final year of the phase-in.

Wyoming?s highway fund would have received a $14 million shot in the arm during the first year. At the end of the three-year period the fund would have been $91.4 million richer. Local governments would have claimed another $35.4 million.

Officials with the Wyoming Department of Transportation pursued the action, cautioning that something must be done because they don?t have enough state or federal money to maintain roadways, including Interstate 80. They predict the situation will only worsen with traffic projected to double in 30 years. Trucks account for about half of the traffic.

Out-of-state drivers, including truckers, were the target of the proposed tax increase. WYDOT officials said that 53 percent of revenue collected from the fuel tax is paid by non-residents.

Faced with flat federal funding and increased costs, another effort intended to help fill the funding gap sought to allow the state to seek federal authority to charge tolls on out-of-state vehicles using I-80.

The Senate Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee voted 3-2 on Monday, Jan.31, to kill the bill ? SF152. This is the second straight year lawmakers considered the effort.

WYDOT would have been required to come up with a plan to toll I-80. The state would also have needed to come up with $350,000 to pay for a study on the plan.

Tolling the existing highway requires approval by federal authorities, as well as passage at the Wyoming statehouse and the governor?s signature.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Wyoming, click here.

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