Tolls

I have an article in this week’s issue of The Current State looking at Kentucky’s quest for additional revenues to fund transportation in the future. That makes it as good a time as any to check in on some of my other states to watch in 2018 on transportation funding.

President Trump’s State of the Union speech and a leaked outline of his infrastructure package last month produced no shortage of opinions about what the administration has in mind for one of his major policy priorities. Many from across the transportation and public policy communities and from across the political spectrum have expressed serious concerns about the shape the package may be taking. Here’s a roundup of some of the reaction so far.

Issue: Seven states (CA, IN, MT, OR, SC, TN and WV) raised gas taxes in 2017 while Utah modified its gas tax formula to allow for more robust revenue growth. Other states including Colorado, Idaho, New Hampshire, Utah and Wisconsin approved one-time transportation funding. Wyoming, which raised its gas tax in 2013, increased vehicle registration and other fees. Ten states approved new fees for electric and/or hybrid vehicles in 2017. Meanwhile states like California, Oregon and Washington continued their experiments with mileage-based user fees, which some believe could one day replace gas taxes. Will 2018, an election year in most places, continue to see state activity on the state funding front and how will a change in philosophy from Washington influence states?

Issue: Infrastructure investment was expected to be a key policy goal of the Trump administration. While the administration did not produce a comprehensive plan to accomplish that in 2017—it’s now expected after the State of the Union in late January—details of the administration’s priorities that have emerged suggested an emphasis on more targeted federal investments, the use of federal dollars to encourage states that help themselves by seeking additional transportation revenues, and an effort to leverage private sector investment. In late September, the president appeared to sour on how big a role public-private partnerships, or P3s, could play in a federal investment package, but many continue to believe P3s could play a significant, if limited, role in facilitating some infrastructure projects.

2017 was a big year for state transportation funding efforts, following in the footsteps of recent odd-number years 2013 and 2015 that also saw significant activity. So, what’s on tap for 2018? Here’s my annual look ahead.

Last December, I compiled my annual list of the states to watch on transportation funding. Last month we followed that up with a CSG eCademy webinar featuring Alison Premo Black of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and reporters from three key states. With legislative sessions well underway in many places, it’s time to see where things stand in the debates about transportation funding going on around the country.

Issue: During the campaign, Donald Trump called for a $1 trillion package to invest in the nation’s infrastructure. But the devil likely will be in the details for both Republicans and Democrats when it comes to funding the plan and deciding what to fund. Beyond any one-time infrastructure investment in 2017 though, will Congress be able to hit the ground running so they can be ready when it comes time to reauthorize the FAST Act transportation authorization bill in 2020?

Issue: State transportation funding efforts could be back in the spotlight in 2017. The list of those that could tackle transportation revenues includes as many as 16 states. Some have been at this for several years and haven’t achieved success due to political challenges. Some have had a task force or special commission in place in 2016 to come up with funding ideas. Plenty of old ideas (gas taxes, registration fees, tolls) are likely to be considered. But mileage-based user fees and other innovations are likely to get a look as well.

After a year in 2015 when eight states raised gas taxes, 2016 saw less activity. New Jersey raised its gas tax by 23 cents and Rhode Island funded a multi-year bridge repair program with a new toll on large commercial trucks and a combination of borrowing and refinancing. But other than those states and a couple of others that approved bond measures for infrastructure projects and the like, most postponed or agreed to extend their transportation revenue discussions into 2017. That means a large number of states could see activity next year on that front. While some have been embroiled in the funding debate for months or years and will continue those conversations, others had a special task force in 2016 to explore revenue ideas and could look to move those ideas forward during the 2017 legislative sessions. Here’s a list of the 14 most likely candidates.

The dog days of summer at the end of August aren’t typically known for the level of activity in state capitals. But a couple of legislative hearings held this week in Texas and Michigan could have fairly significant implications for the future of transportation not just in those states but around the country.

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