Wyoming one step closer to higher fuel tax, vehicle fees

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/5/2012

Two proposals moving forward in Wyoming would boost transportation revenues by nearly $90 million annually.

The Legislature’s interim transportation panel on Monday, Dec. 3, voted to sponsor two bills that would increase the state’s fuel tax rate and vehicle registration fees to help cover a $135 million annual shortfall to upkeep roads. The tax and fee amounts have remained unchanged for 14 years and 38 years, respectively.

The first bill would increase the state’s fuel tax rate by 10 cents to pay for needed road work. The second bill would double vehicle registration fees for non-commercial vehicles. The largest personal vehicles would pay as much as $120.

Truckers and other drivers in Wyoming now pay a 14-cent-per-gallon tax at the fuel pump. The tax rate would increase to 24 cents if lawmakers endorse the change.

Both bills would provide Wyoming’s highway fund with about $90 million in additional revenue 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.

Gov. Matt Mead recommended in recent days that the tax rate be increased to help provide a long-term funding source for transportation work.

“Every part of Wyoming’s economy relies on an effective, well-maintained and continually improved highway system,” Mead stated. “Good planning, reasonable costs and effective management can only be achieved through reliable, long-term funding.”

If lawmakers chose not to increase the tax rate he said they need to divert a portion of the state’s severance tax money for highways.

The governor discouraged lawmakers from moving forward with any plans to increase registration fees.

Officials with the state DOT say something must change 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.

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.

The bills endorsed by the interim panel can be considered during the session that begins Jan. 8.

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

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