Wyoming truckers, others could soon chip in more for roads

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/19/2012

An effort to boost fuel tax revenues in Wyoming could draw consideration early next year. The Legislature’s interim transportation panel has drafted a bill to increase the state’s fuel tax rate by 10 cents to pay for needed road work.

Another part of the proposal calls for doubling vehicle registration fees for non-commercial vehicles. The largest personal vehicles would pay as much as $120.

Registration fees haven’t increased in 38 years.

Since 1998, truckers and other drivers in Wyoming have paid a 14-cent-per-gallon tax at the fuel pump. The tax rate would increase to 24 cents if lawmakers endorse the change.

The dime-per-gallon increase would help cover a $135 million annual shortfall to upkeep roads.

Wyoming’s highway fund would get an $89.8 million boost each year. According to the Wyoming Department of Transportation, about $72 million would come via the fuel tax increase and about $18 million would be raised through the increased registration fees.

About $64 million would be earmarked for state highways and the rest would be routed to local projects.

Officials with the Wyoming Department of Transportation say 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, would be the target of the proposed tax increase. WYDOT officials have said that 53 percent of revenue collected from the fuel tax is paid by non-residents.

Despite the reliance on non-residents to help pay for roads, Gov. Matt Mead has said a fuel tax hike isn’t his first, or second, option to generate money. He said one idea that warrants further consideration is rerouting a portion of severance taxes that now goes to the state’s Permanent Mineral Trust Fund.

The governor has indicated he also wants to be sure that WYDOT is managing well the money already coming in to the agency before he would support a fuel tax increase.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association remains committed to the fuel tax as the primary way to fund highways.

Association leadership maintains that increasing the fuel tax rate is a better option than resorting to tolls.

“Tolls are taxes, and paying both tolls and fuel taxes amounts to double taxation,” Association leadership states in its list of highway funding principles.

Wyoming’s interim panel is next scheduled to meet Dec. 10. They are expected to take a final vote at the meeting on whether to file the bill for consideration during the session that begins Jan. 8, 2013.

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

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