, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, January 02, 2018
Talks about how to pay for needed road and bridge work is certain to once again dominate discussion at statehouses across the country. Below is a sampling of efforts in some notable states.
Arkansas DOT suggests shifting sales tax money
The Arkansas Department of Transportation is trying to come up with a plan to address highway funding needs.
The top option is to transfer the sales tax on new and used vehicles to transportation. The money now goes into the state’s general revenue account. Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently said he would oppose any effort to divert the money.
Another option is to pursue a ballot initiative for 2018 that would ask voters to raise $400 million for road work. Officials may also wait for the next regular session to convene in 2019.
California considers taxing miles, not gallons
Only weeks into a new fuel tax hike, state transportation officials began studying how to charge drivers based on miles traveled since their last trip to the fuel pump.
Caltrans’ action follows the Nov. 1 enactment of a 12-cent increase in the state’s gas tax and a 20-cent increase in the diesel rate. The tax increases are the biggest component of a 10-year, $52 billion transportation funding deal.
Nevertheless, state officials are concerned about motorists choosing to use fuel-efficient vehicles that will result in the state losing out on revenue in the long run.
In an effort touted as proactive, officials are preparing to send a request to technology companies for how to track vehicle miles driven.
Not to be outdone, one state lawmaker wants to ban vehicles powered by fossil fuels. Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, is working on a bill to allow the state DMV to register only vehicles that emit no carbon dioxide. The mandate would take effect in 2040.
Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, recently told Bloomberg news that Gov. Jerry Brown has already spoken with her about how to make the conversion.
Colorado weighs raising fuel taxes
At the dawn of the New Year an old problem continues at the Colorado statehouse. Efforts are ongoing to cover an estimated $1 billion annual shortfall for road construction and maintenance.
The state Department of Transportation attributes the budget gap to a decline in fuel taxes.
Colorado now charges a 22-cent excise tax on gas and a 20.5-cent tax on diesel.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has recommended a tax increase. Voters would get the final say as early as November.
Republicans in the Colorado House and Senate say they do not want to wait nearly one year to see if more money will be made available for transportation. Instead, a group of seven legislators wants the governor to tap existing money.
“Obviously the public has no appetite for raising taxes to pay for a long-term road fix, so we must find a way to use existing funds if we want to get started on a solution,” Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, said in a released statement.
Long term, Colorado elected officials are keeping an eye on a possible vehicle-miles-traveled option. A four-month study concluded last spring to evaluate the feasibility of calculating state transportation funding based on miles driven.
CDOT has a received a half-million-dollar federal grant to operate a second pilot program within the next year.
Indiana lawmaker balks at toll plan for I-465
Months after Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law a road funding plan that raised the state’s fuel tax rates by 10 cents, raised the surcharge tax on diesel another 11 cents, and opened the door to additional toll roads in the state, one state lawmaker wants to make sure Interstate 465 does not become a pay-to-play roadway.
The Indiana Department of Transportation is studying tolling and can submit a waiver to the Federal Highway Administration to allow tolling on existing interstates.
Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, has filed legislation to prohibit toll collection on I-465. Delph offered the bill for consideration after the INDOT failed to rule out the possibility of collecting tolls on the roadway.
Maryland $9 billion plan relies on privatization
Gov. Larry Hogan has announced a $9 billion traffic relief plan to add lanes to three key transportation routes. Privatization deals would be tapped to get the work done.
Specifically, plans call for adding four new lanes to Interstate 270, the Maryland portion of the Capital Beltway, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
“These three massive, unprecedented projects to widen I-495, I-270, and MD 295 will be absolutely transformative,” the Republican governor said in prepared remarks. “These projects will substantially and dramatically improve our state highway system and traffic in the region.”
Once completed, the traffic relief plan is touted to deliver new express toll lanes, in addition to existing lanes, on all three highways.
Not everyone is onboard. Critics of the plan say it is a misguided approach to resolving congestion issues. Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George, has called for the state to invest in mass transit and “smart growth.”
Opponents also question the $9 billion estimate for the work. They say the total price tag could exceed $30 billion.
Massachusetts discusses more tolls on highways
An effort drawing discussion at the statehouse would require the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to study, develop and begin collecting tolls on more roadways.
Sponsored by Sen. Tom McGee, D-Lynn, S1959 identifies sections of Interstates 93 and 95, and along Routes 1 and 2. Tolls would be collected by the end of 2018.
The bill does not specify toll amounts. Rates would be determined following the MassDOT study. Congestion pricing, however, would be used.
Missouri plan includes higher fuel taxes
Talks are ongoing in Missouri for a solution to the state’s nearly one-half billion dollars in annual road and bridge funding needs. A 23-member task force of state officials and private citizens has released transportation funding recommendations to the General Assembly.
Among the recommendations is a fuel tax increase. Specifically, the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon tax rate on gas and diesel would be increased by 10 cents for gas and 12 cents for diesel.
Each penny increase in the fuel excise tax is estimated to raise up to $40 million.
Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, was the group’s vice chairman. He is also chairman of the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee.
Schatz has filed a bill that would raise the state’s fuel tax rate by 10 cents for gas and diesel.
Truck groups in the state support efforts to raise revenue for transportation work. OOIDA and the Missouri Trucking Association, however, want any tax rate increase to be applied evenly for motorists and truck drivers.
Other options offered by the task force include raising the state’s sales tax rate, tolls, implementing a vehicle-miles traveled mechanism, rerouting revenue from the state’s general fund, and raising vehicle fees.
OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Mike Matousek has said the Association believes increasing the fuel tax is the most equitable way to generate additional revenue. He also has said a fuel tax increase is the only realistic option for the state.
North Dakota scrambles to cover $66 billion shortfall
Talks are ongoing in North Dakota for how to address a $66 billion shortfall in transportation funding. Discussion includes toll roads, toll bridges, a road use tax, or a fuel tax increase.
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