New Mexico governor expands overweight zones, vetoes local diesel tax

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Access around ports of entry in New Mexico, a local fuel tax, and speeds on unmarked county roads are among the issues to advance to the governor’s desk.

Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed one bill that sought to authorize counties and municipalities to set an additional tax on diesel purchases of up to 2 cents per gallon.

The state’s six largest counties already have the tax authority. SB114 called for giving voters in the other 27 counties authority to approve the local tax.

According to a fiscal impact report, officials with the New Mexico Department of Transportation are not clear how the local option diesel tax would have fit into the International Fuel Tax Agreement or whether out-of-state truckers would receive the appropriate credit for payment of the local tax.

The Republican governor said she wants the state to make sure they are managing existing revenue sources well before they call on taxpayers to pay more.

“Frequently, government resorts to increasing taxes without first looking at how existing dollars can be better maximized, or prioritized,” Martinez wrote in a veto message.

She also shared her concerns about transportation money that is diverted for non-road purposes.

“Additionally, we should explore moving motor vehicle excise funding out of the general fund and back to the road fund, where it belongs. Similar conversations and discussions should be had at the local level as well.”

Martinez did sign a bill to extend the overweight zone at the three ports of entry on the state’s border with Mexico. The ports are in Antelope Wells, Columbus and Santa Teresa.

Previously SB52, the new law extends the zone from six miles to 12 miles for loads with a gross weight up to 96,000 pounds.

An exception forbids the extension of the overweight zone to roads east of Santa Teresa.

It is anticipated the extension will have the largest impact on freight moving between the Santa Teresa port of entry and the Union Pacific intermodal yard, which lies just beyond the existing overweight cargo zone.

Oversize and overweight permits in the state raised $5 million in fiscal year 2014. Revenue from fees for special permits is routed to the state road fund.

The extension of the overweight zones is expected to result in increased truck traffic on the roads servicing the ports of entry, according to a fiscal impact report. The increased traffic is expected to lead to additional long-term maintenance costs.

The power of local authorities will also be expanded to limit the size and weight of vehicles using roads that pass by educational or medical facilities or on streets that are not designed or constructed for heavy trucks.

A separate new law changes speeds on unmarked county roads. Dubbed the “dirt road bill,” SB125 lowers the maximum speed limit for county roads without signage from 75 mph to 55 mph.

It takes effect Jan. 1, 2016.

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

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