Wyoming approves 10-cent fuel tax increase

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, February 14, 2013

Truckers and others fueling in Wyoming should expect to soon pay a bit more at the fuel pump.

The Senate voted 18-12 to send a bill to Gov. Matt Mead 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.

House lawmakers already approved HB69 on a 35-24 vote.

Senators rejected a proposed amendment on Tuesday to limit the tax increase solely to large trucks. Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, wanted to increase the diesel tax to 30 cents per gallon and leave the gas tax unchanged. He cited damage that trucks do to the state’s roadways, such as Interstate 80.

“Heavy truck traffic is driving up the cost to maintain our roads,” Hicks told lawmakers.

Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, agreed with Hicks. He said that truck drivers need to pay “their fair share.”

Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, pointed out that there is more to the state’s road system than I-80.

“It’s a system, folks. It isn’t I-80 gobbling up everything,” Schiffer said.

He also noted that more than doubling the diesel tax and leaving the gas tax unchanged would essentially tell truckers to avoid the state and use I-70.

Supporters of a fuel tax increase on all road users say that something must be done about transportation funding because costs to pay for road work have skyrocketed in the past 15 years.

Opponents say the state would be better served to look at efficiency and management of the money already available to the Wyoming Department of Transportation before again tapping an already overtaxed electorate for more money.

According to WYDOT, the tax increase would generate about $72 million in new revenue the first year. About $47.4 million – half the amount the state needs to cover the shortfall – 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.

Speaking to lawmakers during his State of the State speech last month, Gov. 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,” Mead 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.”

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

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