States discuss transportation funding options

November 2020

Keith Goble

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Legislators in multiple statehouses are working through possible solutions to transportation funding needs in the lead-up to convening regular sessions.

Nevada

Work underway at the Nevada statehouse would revise a vehicle fee and tax revenue rule.

The Nevada Constitution mandates that any license or registration fee or excise tax on gas or diesel to be used solely for the construction, maintenance and repair of public highways.

The Legislature’s Interim Committee on Energy voted in September to move forward a plan that would open the door to diverting from roads a portion of vehicle taxes and fees. Specifically, the group authorized continued pursuit of a plan to amend the constitution to allow affected revenue to be applied for all “transportation infrastructure.”

Directors of multiple state agencies submitted a letter to the committee on sustainable transportation funding.

“The long-term solution should, to the greatest extent possible, address the needs of all transportation mode users, including bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users,” the letter said.

Assemblywoman Jill Tolles, R-Reno, told her fellow committee members more money is needed before it gets diverted for pedestrian projects and transit.

“Unless we are able to expand the pie, we are further dividing the pie, which would have the net effect of taking some funds away from bridges and public highways,” Tolles said.

Nevada Department of Transportation Director Kristina Swallow agreed with the concern. She pointed out that the state has a more than $530 million annual shortfall in available transportation funds.

Committee passage of the proposal clears the way for a bill draft request to be written for possible consideration by the Legislature. State lawmakers would be required to approve the change during the 2021 and 2023 regular sessions.

Voters would get the final say on the proposed amendment to the state’s constitution during the 2024 election.

Utah

Pursuit continues at the Utah statehouse to address road funding mechanisms.

The Legislature’s Transportation Interim Committee met recently to discuss topics that include the state’s road use charge program.

The Utah DOT provided the committee with an update on the program that is available to certain alternative-fuel vehicle owners.

State officials previously decided to pursue alternatives to fuel tax collection as a source for additional transportation funding. They cite more fuel-efficient vehicles and changing driving habits through the years for declines in fuel tax revenues needed to cover funding costs.

Early this year, the state DOT began a road use charge program available to electric and hybrid vehicle owners. The program gives about 2,000 enrolled vehicle owners the option to pay a $120 flat fee or a 1.5-cent-per-mile fee.

Advocates describe the program as the future of transportation funding in the state.

Wyoming

An effort underway in Wyoming would move the state closer to implementing a road user charge.

The Legislature’s Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee met recently to discuss topics that include a pay-by-mile system, or road user charge.

The panel is preparing for the start of the 2021 regular session with a focus on funding options worth pursuing to help the state reduce an annual transportation funding deficit estimated at $135 million.

Advocates, including the Wyoming DOT, say a road user charge program is the future of transportation funding.

Committee members voted 10-2 to move forward with the road user charge option for all vehicles as a long-term mechanism to replace the state’s 24-cent-per-gallon tax collection on fuel purchases.

Specifically, the committee backed a bill draft that would begin to phase out fuel tax collection in favor of a road user charge in March 2022.

As written in the bill draft, motorists would pay 2.15 cents per mile traveled on Wyoming roadways. Professional drivers would pay from 10.32 cents to 14.35 cents per mile.

Over time, the draft states the fuel tax would be indexed to maintain alignment with road use charges.

Residents paying the road user charge would get a credit for fuel taxes paid. Out-of-state drivers would pay both the road user charge and the state’s fuel tax.

The draft will now become a bill for legislators to consider during the session that begins in January. LL

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.