Wyoming governor makes case for fuel tax increase

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/11/2013

Gov. Matt Mead gave his State of the State speech this week in Wyoming and emphasized the need to get moving on a long-term plan to improve roads. He touted a dime-per-gallon fuel tax increase.

“Not properly maintaining and funding highways today is ... creating a debt for those who come after us to solve,” Mead told House and Senate lawmakers.

According to state figures, Wyoming faces a $135 million annual shortfall to upkeep roads. The state’s 14-cent-per-gallon fuel tax has not changed since 1998.

Mead called on state lawmakers to approve a 10-cent increase to create a long-term funding source to help pay for road work. The Wyoming Department of Transportation indicates that the hike would generate about $72 million a year for state and local road projects.

“Roads are the backbone for so much of our commerce, recreation and day-to-day living,” he said. “If we fail to maintain our roads, the price goes up and a higher price will be paid for poor maintenance. That is not a plan.”

Mead’s alternative to a fuel tax increase would be 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. They predict the situation will only worsen with traffic projected to double in 30 years. Trucks account for about half of the traffic.

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 governor said the state cannot afford more band-aid solutions. Specifically, he called for an end to dipping into general funds for road use.

“Our highway infrastructure needs attention. We need action and not more words.”

The Wyoming Legislature can consider road funding bills during the 37-day session.

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

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