Could Wyoming's fuel tax be on the rise?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/4/2013

An effort is underway at the Wyoming statehouse to boost transportation revenues.

The Legislature’s interim transportation panel filed a bill for consideration during the upcoming session that would increase the state’s fuel tax rate to help cover a $135 million annual shortfall to upkeep roads. The tax has remained unchanged for 14 years.

The bill – HB69 – would increase the state’s fuel tax rate by 10 cents to pay for needed road work.

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.

According to the Wyoming Department of Transportation, the tax increase would generate about $72 million in new revenue the first year. About $64 million would be earmarked for state highways, and the rest would be routed to local projects.

Gov. Matt Mead has recommended 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 recently 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.

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.

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 nonresidents.

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 Wyoming Legislature convenes on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

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

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