As state legislators throughout the country prepare to get back to work after the first of the year transportation funding is again expected to be a hot topic at many statehouses.
Gov.-elect Ned Lamont says truck-only tolls are one option the state should pursue to help cover expenses for needed transportation work.
The incoming Democratic governor says that charging out-of-state truckers to access Connecticut roadways could raise a quarter of a billion dollars annually. He said collecting more money from professional drivers is a better option to fund transportation work than increasing fuel taxes for all drivers or borrowing.
“I support electronic tolling on heavy trucks that are coming in from out of state, which use our roads toll-free and create significant wear-and-tear,” Lamont said in posted comments.
Susan Bysiewicz, the state’s incoming lieutenant governor, echoed the soon-to-be governor’s stance on truck tolls along the campaign trail.
“I would say that we are running a multistate charity for out-of-state vehicles, especially trucks that are decimating our roadways,” Bysiewicz told a group gathered in Meriden in late September.
Attempts in recent years to authorize tolls in Connecticut have fallen flat due to opposition from Republicans who have been the majority party in the state’s Senate. Following the elections earlier this month the GOP no longer has enough legislators in the upper chamber to block passage of the funding method.
Leaders in the General Assembly’s new Democratic majority share interest in Lamont’s pursuit of truck tolls on the state’s highways and major routes. Legislators and Lamont, however, are expected to proceed slowly to give themselves time to see what happens with court challenges to truck-only tolls in Rhode Island.
Elsewhere, efforts to raise road revenue are focused on fuel taxes, public-private partnerships, existing budgets and tolls.
Fresh off her election victory, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey and GOP leaders at the statehouse must decide whether a fuel tax increase is among the solutions to the state’s funding needs.
State legislators are expected to begin the New Year pressing forward on a plan to fund infrastructure projects. Specifically, an increase in the state’s 18-cent gas tax and 19-cent diesel tax is likely to come up for consideration.
Discussion leading up to the convening of the 2019 regular session is focused on possibly indexing the state’s excise tax rate. The fuel rates have remained unchanged since 1992.
The change to indexing would allow for the fuel tax to rise automatically with the rate of inflation.
A fuel tax increase is anticipated to come up for discussion soon at the statehouse.
Advocates say additional revenue via the tax would provide a shot in the arm for the state to address a long list of road and bridge projects.
Critics counter that a fuel tax is not the best way for the state to move forward with transportation funding. They cite changing driving habits and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the roadways.
Arizona legislators have struggled in recent years to muster support for any one funding method. Although state lawmakers did approve a bill earlier this year to increase vehicle registration fees to help cover some costs for road repair.
The pursuit of a fuel tax increase is in the offing at the state capitol to help address a $1 billion backlog in road paving projects.
The existing gas and diesel rates are tied to the price at the pump. Price dips result in fewer tax dollars charged.
One possibility to help address the issue is the implementation of a flat tax rate.
A failed bipartisan attempt during the 2018 regular session sought to raise the state’s fuel tax rate by a dime to raise $390 million annually. Annual fees would also have been permitted on hybrid and electric vehicles.
Leaders in the GOP-led statehouse say that fuel tax is not the lone solution to address long-term funding needs.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he supports legislative efforts to help the state address a $13 billion backlog for transportation needs.
In recent years there has been some pursuit at the statehouse for a fuel tax increase, but the idea has not taken hold among legislators. Other options are expected to be considered in the upcoming regular session.
Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson said he supports use of public-private partnerships to get road projects done.
Gov.-elect Tim Walz has wasted little time since winning the governorship to tout the need for a fuel tax increase to pay for transportation improvements.
The state now charges a 28.5-cent tax rate on gas and diesel. The tax raised about $910 million one year ago.
The Democrat says transportation will be a top priority of his administration. To date, he has declined to specify how much the tax should be increased.
Whether the idea can gain traction at the statehouse is unknown. Democrats control the House chamber but Republicans hold a one-seat majority in the Senate.
Other options mentioned for addressing transportation needs is tapping a potential budget surplus and using auto part sales and repair taxes solely for transportation purposes. The revenue now is earmarked for the state’s general fund.
A large transportation funding bill is expected to be considering during the 2019 regular session.
Adding tolls on Interstate 81 is among the funding options expected to be discussed soon at the statehouse.
A study is ongoing to determine whether the toll option should be pursued. Specifically, the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board is looking at collecting tolls for trucks only and/or high-occupancy vehicles. Charging tolls for all drivers will not be considered.
Other options on the table include a regional fuel tax and a sales tax.
Once the board wraps up their discussions, recommendations will be presented to state lawmakers in January.
A public comment period runs through the end of the month. Information on submitting comments is available.
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