States Tackle Transportation Funding

A number of states are addressing highway funding needs by raising fuel taxes and other fees and more are expected to follow suit. The current federal transportation law will lapse by the end of next year, and unless Congress makes drastic changes, more states will be left to account for funding shortfalls.

Earlier this year Maryland increased its fuel tax 3.5 cents a gallon, while Wyoming’s increased by 10 cents. Massachusetts raised its tax by 3 cents, overriding the governor’s veto, and Vermont imposed a 2 percent sales tax on gasoline. Virginia enacted a landmark transportation law that will provide $3.4 billion over the next five years for transportation projects, and Pennsylvania became the latest state to approve new fees and taxes that will generate billions of dollars for roads, bridges and transit.

Several cities in California, Missouri and Washington state increased their local sales taxes to pay for road and transit improvements. North Carolina’s Wake County, which includes Raleigh, approved a property tax increase for a $75 million transportation bond package. 

The recent changes may provide proof that the public is willing to pay for infrastructure improvements, which may mean more ballots contain transportation initiatives going forward. 

In California Will Kempton, a former California Department of Transportation official, has submitted a proposed voter initiative for the 2014 ballot that would more than double the state vehicle license fee to 1.65 percent from 0.65 percent of the value of an auto or truck.

Lawmakers in New Hampshire are also pushing for a gas tax increaseState Sen. Jim Rausch has a new proposal that would link future increases in the gas tax to the rate of inflation, starting with a roughly 4-cent hike in 2014.

In Iowa, the Department of Transportation officials are holding a number of meetings to discuss funding, which is facing a $215 million shortfall. The DOT meetings are designed to educate key influencers and the public about the importance of transportation. Iowa isn’t necessarily looking to increase the fuel tax, but is looking at a variety of funding options, said Paul Trombino III, Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, with the goal of getting everyone to think "outside the box.”

Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
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