State-by-State Transportation Issues
A summary of some of the major transportation issues being addressed in state capitals and state legislatures across the country.
The General Assembly is voting on major tax reforms a bipartisan panel of senior legislators presented that would fundamentally change the way the state finances its roads for the first time in a generation.
The five delegates and five senators signed off on a compromise that would yield nearly $900 million annually, replacing Virginia's 17.5 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax with a 3.5 percent wholesale tax on gasoline. At current prices, that equals about 10 cents per gallon.
It would apply a 6 percent tax on diesel fuel, equal to about 22 cents per gallon at late February’s average statewide price of about $3.70 per gallon.
Sen. Mike Kehoe, a Republican, and Sen. Ryan McKenna, a Democrat, have introduced a bill to increase the state sales tax by 1 cent for 10 years to pay for transportation needs. Supporters estimate it would generate nearly $8 billion over a decade and could support more than 250,000 jobs.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval is proposing using alternative tax revenues to support more than $50 million in general obligation bonds the state wants to issue to pay for significant infrastructure improvements. Since the state won’t have enough property tax funds to pay back the bonds, the governor proposes issuing $58 million in general obligation bonds that would be repaid from the state's liquor tax. Sandoval has budgeted $85 million for capital improvement projects.
Gov. Rick Snyder is calling for an additional $1.2 billion in annual transportation funding, arguing that investing now in Michigan roads will help the state avoid a $25 billion repair bill, reduce vehicle maintenance costs, create jobs and likely even save lives. The governor wants to increase the 19-cents-per-gallon state gasoline tax and 15-cents-per-gallon diesel tax to the equivalent of 33 cents for both.
A bill has been proposed to allow township boards of supervisors to levy an additional tax of up to 50 cents per $1,000 of property value to raise money for local highways, roads, bridges and culverts. Opponents of the legislation said the plan was flawed because the levies wouldn’t be subject to referral to voters.
TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson has told lawmakers that Texas needs to spend about $4 billion more per year on roads to handle a booming population, even after a decade-long spike in highway construction and maintenance. Without that money, the state is a facing a "perfect storm" of more people using Texas roads, increased construction costs and unreliable federal funding that could leave motorists stuck in traffic.
Senate Finance Chairman Joey Fillingane wants gamblers to help fund Mississippi’s dire infrastructure needs by paying a tax he says they are already supposed to be paying. Gamblers in Mississippi casinos are supposed to pay a 3-percent state tax on winnings on top of state income taxes.
Gov. Tom Corbett's transportation secretary has told a Senate committee he doesn't know how much of a proposed wholesale gas tax increase would be borne by consumers. Corbett and Secretary Barry Schoch are trying to strike a delicate balance: They must satisfy lawmakers, many of whom want more money more quickly for transportation, and a general public that is unenthusiastic about paying for it. If the whole increase is passed along to consumers, it would cost the average motorist $2 a week, Schoch said.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has signed into law an extra $1.5 billion in spending for road construction and child welfare investigations, even as Republicans decried the measure as including ill-timed, pork barrel money.
A proposal to raise state fuel taxes by a dime a gallon has cleared its final vote in the state Senate on Thursday. It now heads to Gov. Matt Mead, who has said he favors the tax hike and will sign the bill. The measure would raise the tax from the existing rate of 14 cents a gallon up to 24 cents for gasoline and diesel. The tax hike would raise about $70 million a year, of which roughly two-thirds would go to the Wyoming Department of Transportation and one-third to local governments.
Transportation Department Director Brian Ness isn't proposing plans to boost his agency's revenue this year, but he wants to "start having the discussion" about funding for improvements and repairs to Idaho's aging road and bridge system. Ness has spoken with budget writers on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Monday, telling them he has "no specific proposals" to boost ITD funding. The last time the agency brought a plan to boost revenue was 2009, when proposed hikes to gas and registration fees failed.
Several bills have been introduced that reflect lawmakers' concerns over the proposed east-west highway, a 230-mile route across Maine that would connect Canadian points. The highway would be operated privately and maintained with tolls. The bills are being drafted so all of their details are not known. But the titles show one would take away the $300,000 state appropriation for a feasibility study on the massive project, and another would modify that appropriation.
Gov. Deval Patrick is considering several options to raise about $1 billion a year, including raising the state’s 21-cents a gallon gasoline tax, raising the sales tax or imposing a tax based on the miles a vehicle travels.
Lawmakers wrestling with how to pay for road and highway needs amid a growing funding shortfall are considering using money from the state's sales tax on gas to pay for transportation projects. Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley says the General Assembly should consider guaranteeing some or all of the roughly $500 million the tax generates each year. And Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane says the state should take a modest chunk from that pool to give to cash-strapped areas.
House Democrats have unveiled a transportation revenue package that would raise $9.8 billion over the next decade with the help of a 10-cent bump in the gas tax, a new annual car registration fee pegged at 0.7 percent of the vehicle's value and more than $3 billion in new bonds. In addition to $1 billion for both the state and local governments to maintain infrastructure, the package is meant to fund $3 billion to help pay for new and existing road projects, plus $123 million to pay for a third new 144-car ferry.