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The Nation

Arkansas governor unveils $300 million highway funding plan; includes gas tax hike



Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas on Monday, February 11, 2019 about his proposed highway funding plan. (Associated Press: ANDREW DEMILLO)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ governor on Monday unveiled a $300 million highway funding plan that calls for increasing taxes and tapping into expected casino revenue, hoping to win over fellow Republicans who have said they want to address road needs before taking up his proposed income tax cut.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and legislative leaders detailed the highway plan five weeks into a legislative session where they said road funding would be a priority . The state Senate last week approved Hutchinson’s $97 million tax cut proposal, but it’s faced resistance from some GOP lawmakers who have said they want action on roads.

Hutchinson called his proposal the best way to address a growing gap in road funding without diverting money from needed services.

“This plan achieves the right balance,” Hutchinson said at a news conference at the state Capitol. “It is affordable, it is prudent for our budget and it is reasonable.”

Hutchinson’s proposal includes asking voters next year to extend a half-cent sales tax for roads that was approved in 2012. If approved, the sales tax would raise nearly $206 million a year for state highways.

Lawmakers would have to approve the other $95 million in additional funding. It includes a wholesale tax on fuel that would raise gasoline prices by 3 cents a gallon and diesel prices by 6 cents a gallon. The proposal would also dedicate at least $35 million in tax revenue expected from new casinos, restricted reserve funds or other general revenue. Voters last year approved a constitutional amendment legalizing casinos in four counties, including at a Hot Springs horse track and West Memphis dog track. The proposal would also impose additional registration fees for hybrid and electric vehicles.

The proposal would also raise an additional $110 million a year for cities and counties to maintain local streets and roads.

House Speaker Matthew Shepherd said he believed the proposal would help win over some GOP lawmakers withholding support of the tax cut plan until they saw a highway proposal.

“The highway discussion, for a number of members, is something they wanted brought to the forefront now as opposed to waiting,” Shepherd, a Republican, said.

Hutchinson said relying on the anticipated casino revenue would ensure the state isn’t shifting existing funding from other state needs. Democrats, who have also opposed diverting existing funding toward roads, said they were cautiously reviewing the plan.

“I think that piece on making sure none of our services, particularly education, are touched … is what we have the most questions about,” Democratic Rep. Megan Godfrey said.

The proposal was applauded by the Arkansas Trucking Association, which had urged lawmakers to come up with a highway funding plan. But a conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, opposed the plan for its tax increases and extensions.

Republican Rep. Dan Douglas said he was disappointed with the proposal and called it “problematic” to cut the state’s top income tax rate while backing increases that will hit poorer residents hardest. Douglas, who has advocated dedicating tax revenue from car sales to roads, said the proposal doesn’t go far enough.

“It’s kicking the can down the road,” Douglas said.





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The Nation

Diesel heads up 4 cents a gallon to $3.006



Diesel prices jumped 4 cents a gallon to ring up Tuesday at $3.006. (The Trucker file photo)

For the past several months, including the end of 2018, all the “experts” said oil (and consequently diesel) was going nowhere but up. It had to, they reasoned, after prices had almost literally scraped the bottom of the barrel.

Then oil and diesel both went down for weeks. After that it stayed the same.

Now diesel prices are finally up — 4 cents a gallon — to $3.006 a gallon Tuesday from $2.966 a gallon last week.

Normally, diesel prices would have been announced Monday, but since it was President’s Day, diesel prices were released Tuesday.

And it may be a testament to how long prices had been going down or stayed flat that none of the U.S. Information Administration’s 10 reporting regions were clocking $4-a-gallon diesel, not even California, where diesel was ringing up at $3.739.

Also, four regions were still below $3 a gallon as of Tuesday.

And although 4 cents a gallon for the on-highway national average was a significant jump from the week before, the Lower Atlantic and Midwest regions each jumped 5.5 cents a gallon. Diesel in the Lower Atlantic sector went from $2.872 last week to $2.927 Tuesday while in the Midwest, diesel prices went from $2.849 last week to $2.904 today.

The Gulf Coast had the lowest prices at $2.809 a gallon, up 3.3 cents from the week prior.

Is this the start of an upward trend? It’s hard to know what oil prices will do in a global economy that is teetering since what seems like a bandwagon jump out of the European Union.

Meanwhile, oil was trading up:

U.S. crude added 48 cents to $56.07 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after gaining $1.19 on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 16 cents to $66.34 per barrel, The Associated Press reported.

For diesel prices by sector, click here.

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The Nation

Ohio governor to reveal gas tax hike plan Thursday



Ohio's tp Transportation Department executive says the state is facing an "impending crisis" unless more road funding is provided. (The Trucker file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine says he’ll announce Thursday his proposed recommendation for increasing the state’s gas tax to deal with a chronic shortfall in spending on road construction.

DeWine, a Republican, says there are no other solutions outside a gas tax increase, while warning that any increase simply keeps Ohio from falling behind.

He wouldn’t provide details or say what the proposed increase will be. He spoke at an annual forum sponsored by The Associated Press.

DeWine says the increase is “just to keep us where we are today.”

The head of the Ohio Department of Transportation director said earlier this month that Ohio’s road maintenance and infrastructure are facing an “impending crisis” unless more funding is provided.

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The Nation

OOIDA Foundation issues information it says debunks driver shortage ‘myth’



Most carriers with high turnover do so by design, says OOIDA President Todd Spencer. “They could deal with driver turnover by offering better wages and benefits and improved working conditions,” he said.

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s research foundation published two new documents it says debunks the driver shortage “myth.”

A fact sheet explains how the industry isn’t afflicted with a shortage of drivers, but is actually plagued with overcapacity and driver retention, the foundation reported.

A second, accompanying document talks about how wages have decreased for truck drivers at large carriers and many have moved toward smaller fleets.

Last year, the association also created a short video that explains why there is high turnover as opposed to a shortage.

“We are concerned about the perpetuation of a myth of driver shortage,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA President. “This misinformation is used to push agendas that are harmful to the industry and highway safety.”

To address the supposed driver “shortage,” some organizations have suggested that the age requirement to obtain a commercial driver’s license should be lowered from 21 to 18.

“If safety is the top priority when considering a change to a regulation, when it comes to age, the number should be raised, not lowered.” Spencer said.

OOIDA also contends that any issue with retention could be mitigated with other solutions that would be safer for all highway users.

For example, compensation has been shown to be tied directly to highway safety, as revealed in studies that suggest there is a strong correlation between driver pay and highway safety, Spencer said.

“Most carriers with high turnover do so by design,” he said. “They could deal with driver turnover by offering better wages and benefits and improved working conditions. But putting younger drivers behind the wheel of a truck isn’t the solution because it does nothing to address the underlying issues that push drivers out of the industry. It merely exacerbates the churn.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the largest national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The association currently has more than 160,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the greater Kansas City, Missouri, area.




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