Business leaders in the road construction industry and county highway officials today got a sneak peak at the soon to be proposed state transportation budget. It will almost certainly include an increased gas tax and vehicle registration fee.
At a meeting of the Transportation Development Association in Middleton, state Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Mike Berg told the road builders that while the state will spend about $1 billion in contracted road work next year, there will be fewer tax dollars to pay for it. That's because 90-percent of those funds come from gas tax and registration fees, which are not increasing because people just aren't driving as much, "And when they are they're using much more fuel efficient vehicles which is a good thing. But it causes less revenue to come in based on the gas tax. We're growing older as a demographic and we're having less vehicles purchased and so those two revenue streams are very flat and yet the needs of our transportation system continue to grow."
The road builders also received an update on a soon to be released set of recommendations from the Transportation Finance Commission. Commission member Marty Hanson told them in addition to a gas tax hike, there will also be a proposal mileage fee that each car owner would pay based on their annual odometer reading when renewing their car registration, "We as a nation are going to have to move more to this usage base. Certainly you can make the argument that these heavy trucks create more degradation to the system physically but certainly whether you drive a hybrid an electric vehicle or a SUV you are occupying space on that system and creates a pace problem."
Hanson also called on road builder officials to lobby hard for passing a constitutional amendment to segregate road building dollars to prevent governors and legislators from raiding the transportation fund to fill other holes in the budget.