All That's Trucking

States looking at highway funding

November 20, 2012

Increasing fuel taxes may be a near-taboo topic on Capitol Hill, but as state legislators and governors look to 2013 budgets and highway funding, a number are considering raising state fuel taxes to pay for needed infrastructure work.

Pennsylvania is one state that may look to raise fuel taxes to pay for an infrastructure funding shortfall.



Here's a roundup of recent reports from local media in several states:

Massachusetts:

Gov. Deval Patrick will ask lawmakers to solve the state's transportation crisis with a plan that includes higher taxes. The shortfall could be reduced by raising the long-frozen gas tax, tolls, or other taxes and fees.

"At this point, everything remains on the table," said state Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey, in an interview with the Boston Globe.

The Patrick administration, which tried unsuccessfully to raise the gas tax in 2009, signaled earlier this year that it may revisit that tax, says the paper.

The 2007 report of the independent Transportation Finance Commission estimated the state's transportation shortfall at $15 billion to $19 billion over 20 years.

Read more: Patrick poised to call for transportation tax hike

Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and a senior state lawmaker are looking for long-term transportation funding solutions next year. In a speech before the Pennsylvania Press Club Monday, the Republican governor answered with a quick Yes when he was asked whether he planned to come up with a way to pay for an estimated $2.5 billion in road and bridge repairs. But he declined to discuss specifics.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Rafferty, the Montgomery Republican who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, says hes drafting his own package of bills that could resolve an apparent stalemate over highway funding that has dogged Corbetts first two years in office. But he didn't want to talk about details, either.

An August 2011 report by an administration task force recommended lifting a cap on the states wholesale gasoline tax and imposing inflationary increases on motor vehicle registration and licensing fees to address a backlog of road repairs and to repair bridges that rank among the worst in the country.

Read more: Gov. Corbett to unveil transportation funding plan in 2013

Virginia:

Gov. Bob McDonnell told reporters today that hes working on a transportation funding plan for the 2013 session, and said one of the things hes considering is indexing the gas tax to inflation. last week, Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, announced a transportation funding proposal that would apply a sales tax to gasoline, eliminate several tax exemptions and lower some income tax brackets.

"We have a transportation funding problem because gas prices arent indexed to inflation, because people are getting far more miles per gallon and because were using alternative fuels," McDonnell said.

Read more: McDonnell preparing own transportation funding plan, considering indexing gas tax

Wisconsin

A special Wisconsin Department of Transportation commission will be recommending ways to close the looming funding shortfall needed to maintain the state's aging bridges and Interstates. The Transportation Finance & Policy Commission is almost certain to recommend increasing the 30.9-cent-per-gallon gas tax.

Other possibilities under consideration include raising vehicle registration fees and collecting a new miles-driven fee. The latter would take years to phase in.

Read more: State might push to boost transportation taxes

I suspect this is only the tip of the iceberg. Other recent articles in states such as Texas and Maryland have explored the funding shortfall, but no concrete proposals have yet emerged. I predict we'll see a lot of discussion in state legislatures this coming session.