Wyoming House backs 10-cent fuel tax increase

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/18/2013

Truckers and others fueling in Wyoming could soon be responsible for paying a bit more tax at the fuel pump.

The House voted 35-24 on Friday, Jan. 18, to advance a bill to the Senate that would increase the state’s fuel tax rate by 10 cents to 24 cents to help cover a $135 million annual shortfall to upkeep roads. The state’s 14-cent-per-gallon tax rate has not changed since 1998.

Before the floor vote, House Transportation Chairman David Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, said something must be done about transportation funding because costs to pay for road construction have skyrocketed in the past 15 years.

“If we kick the can down the road any further, one day there will not be a road anymore to kick it down,” Zwonitzer told lawmakers.

Without providing details, Rep. Gerald Gay, R-Casper, said that there are other options “lurking out there.”

Rep. Gary Piiparinen, R-Evanston, said the state would be better served to look at efficiency and management of the money already available to the Wyoming Department of Transportation before trying to “squeeze out” more money from an already over-taxed electorate.

“We have great roads. But the people of Wyoming are being killed by taxes,” said Rep. David Miller, R-Riverton.

According to WYDOT, the tax increase would generate about $72 million in new revenue the first year. About $47.4 million would be earmarked for state highways. Counties and cities would receive $16.4 million and $6.7 million, respectively. State parks would claim another $1.2 million.

Advocates point out that out-of-state drivers, including truckers, are the target of the proposed tax increase. They say that 53 percent of revenue collected from the tax is paid by non-residents.

Speaking to lawmakers during his State of the State speech earlier this month, Gov. Matt Mead called on them to approve the dime tax increase. He said it would create a long-term funding source to help pay 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.

The fuel tax bill – HB69 – awaits assignment to committee in the Senate.

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

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