House Bill 2082, which passed earlier, called for a 6-cent gas tax increase and did not include repealing the weight-distance tax. The bill went through several changes in the Senate Transportation Committee. Sen. Marylin Shannon, who is chairwoman of the committee, is strongly behind repealing the weight-distance tax. It would be replaced by a 29-cents-per-gallon diesel tax and an 11-fold increase in truck registration fees.
The bill would use 1 cent of the gas tax increase plus a $10 increase in car registration fees to pay for a $600 million bond program for new roads. The rest of the money would be split between the state and local governments.
The bill, which requires a three-fifths majority in both houses, faces an uncertain future on the Senate floor. Oregon lawmakers have already refused to raise the gas tax for three years in a row. In order to even get it passed out of committee, Senate President Brady Adams had to replace two conservative Republicans on the committee with more moderate members. Conservatives want no tax increase of any kind. Environmentalists don't want to build more roads when the state can't keep the existing system in good repair. Gov. John Kitzhaber has been skeptical about repealing the weight-distance tax. Critics believe the change would shift too much of the burden off truckers and onto other drivers. The American Automobile Assn. of Oregon/Idaho has said it would try to put the gas tax measure on the ballot if the weight-mile tax is repealed.