Transportation revenue a statehouse topic from coast to coast

February 2020

Keith Goble

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Talks in the coming months about how to pay for needed bridge and road work is certain to once again be prevalent at statehouses. The following is a sampling of some notable efforts.

Connecticut

Leading lawmakers in Connecticut are on hot pursuit of truck-only tolls.

Gov. Ned Lamont has announced plans to hold a special session on the issue before the regular session convenes in early February. Specifically, the Democratic governor and the state’s majority party are advocating to collect truck tolls on 12 bridges around the state.

The biggest potential roadblock for Connecticut’s toll plan is an ongoing legal challenge that Rhode Island’s truck-only tolls are a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Lamont says he is not concerned about the court action.

“I am confident that the legal arguments for truck tolls will prevail,” Lamont stated.

Massachusetts

Multiple Massachusetts bills propose adding tolls to the Boston area, and along some border crossings.

Another option getting attention would authorize the Massachusetts DOT to study and report on the feasibility of establishing all-electric tolls on state and interstate highways that do not already charge fees to users.

The agency also would be permitted to seek a federal waiver for the placement of border tolls.

Alternatives to tolls under review include doing away with collection of the state’s fuel tax in favor of a per-mile tax system.

Maine

Discussion is ongoing in Maine about how to address a highway funding gap estimated to be as much as $230 million annually.

A blue ribbon committee is working on recommendations for how to cover the budget gap. The group comprised of government officials and industry experts has struggled to come up with a consensus for how to fund needed work.

The panel has already discussed options that include a fuel tax increase. Other options being discussed include rerouting vehicle sales tax to the highway fund, new fees on hybrid and electric vehicles, a vehicle-miles traveled tax, and new tolls.

Missouri

Multiple Missouri legislators are focused on enacting a fuel tax increase. The state’s 17-cent fuel tax rate has remained unchanged since 1994.

The state’s DOT has said there is an $825 million gap in annual road and bridge funding.

Among the bills introduced to address the situation is a bill to raise the gas tax 2 cents from 17 cents to 19 cents. The diesel rate would be increased 6 cents from 17 cents to

23 cents.

The tax rates also would be adjusted annually for inflation, which would allow for regular increases.

Separate efforts call for raising fuel rates of 2 to 10 cents.

Utah

Gov. Gary Herbert has signed into law a tax reform package that authorizes the collection of additional sales tax to cover expenses that include transportation work.

The deal will raise the state’s sales tax on food, gas, and certain other services. The 31-cent gas tax rate will increase about 10 cents to

43 cents.

Instead of being charged a sales tax on fuel purchases, starting in April 2020 commercial drivers will pay an extra 6 cents per gallon in diesel excise tax – up from 31 cents. In 2022, the diesel rate will be raised another 4 cents to 41 cents.

Additional tax collected on food, fuel and services is estimated to raise about $475 million. About $170 million of that amount will come via gas and diesel tax collection.

Wyoming

An interim legislative panel filed a bill to collect tolls on Interstate 80. The effort would have the state DOT come up with a master plan to toll the 400-mile thoroughfare.

“The tolled configuration will allow interstate 80 to be maintained and to be operated in a way that will reduce traffic congestion, delays, hazards, injuries and fatalities,” the bill reads.

Tolling the existing highway is a multiple-step process. The Wyoming Legislature must first act to authorize tolls in the state. Secondly, the governor would need to sign off on the plan.

Finally, the federal government must grant the state permission

to charge tolls on vehicles using I-80. LL

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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.