Updates on States to Watch in 2018: Transportation Funding

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.

Alabama: The Senate passed legislation last month that would create a trust fund to accept federal transportation grants and other appropriations to expand public transit options statewide, AL.com reported. Alabama is one of only five states that doesn’t provide any state money for public transportation.  

Arizona: Lawmakers are considering a bill that would empower the Arizona Department of Transportation to impose a vehicle registration fee to fund the state highway patrol and free up money that now goes to the highway patrol to put toward road repairs, Tucson.com reported. Arizona Builder’s Exchange also recently looked at the state’s options for transportation funding.

Colorado: Even as the state legislature is considering whether to put more general fund money from the state budget into transportation, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has announced an effort to get a sales tax measure onto the November ballot to fund transportation, The Gazette reported. Senate Republicans have proposed borrowing $3.5 billion and repaying it with about $300 million annually from the state budget over 20 years, The Durango Herald reported last month. Democrats, including the chair of the House Transportation & Energy Committee Rep. Faith Winter, oppose the bonding proposal.  Meanwhile, Senate legislation would eliminate a tax credit program for alternative fuel vehicles and shift the $50.4 million from the program to the state’s highway fund, according to The Greeley Tribune.

Connecticut: Gov. Dannel Malloy has proposed a revenue package to stabilize the state’s Special Transportation Fund, notes The Hartford Courant. The proposal would increase the state’s gas tax by 7 cents a gallon over four years and aim to have electronic highway tolls operational around the state by July 2022. The proposal estimates $105 million in additional revenues from the gas tax increase once fully implemented and $600 million to $800 million from tolling. The governor and state DOT officials announced last month they were postponing hundreds of transportation projects totaling $4.3 billion until the General Assembly appropriates new revenue for the Special Transportation Fund.

Kansas: The Senate Ways and Means Committee is considering a bill to create a 27-member task force that would be charged with looking at the state’s transportation needs and making recommendations to the legislature, The Topeka Capital Journal reported. Community leaders, builders and economic development organizations are supporting the bill after seeing state leaders spend years using highway funds to fill gaps elsewhere in the state budget.

Louisiana: Gov. John Bel Edwards’ $600 million plan to widen Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge and other road projects by pursuing the use of federal bonds won the support of the Joint Transportation Committee last month, The Advocate reported.

Maine: Gov. Paul LePage has expressed his support for an effort to impose annual registrations fees on hybrid and electric vehicles, The Press Herald reported. The vehicles account for less than 3 percent of all passenger vehicles in Maine but new fees could raise about $2.9 million annually for highway repairs. Eighteen states have registration fees on electric and hybrid vehicles. The LePage administration also has proposed legislation to redirect 12 percent of the sales tax on automobiles and automobile parts to the highway funds, which analysts say would blow a hole in the state budget. Rep. Andrew McLean, the House Transportation Committee Chair (and co-chair of CSG’s Transportation & Infrastructure Public Policy Committee), has legislation of his own that would add fees for hybrids and electrics, add registration fees, divert some sales taxes to the highway fund AND increase the gas tax. The LePage administration has opposed a gas tax increase.

Minnesota: The Minnesota Department of Transportation has issued the results of a Legislature-mandated study of the feasibility of toll road expansion in the state, The Star Tribune and Associated Press noted. The report’s conclusion: more study is needed.

Mississippi: Lawmakers are considering legislation that would increase the state gas tax 3 cents a gallon a year for four years and after that index the tax to inflation, The Kemper County Messenger and Associated Press reported. The plan would also reduce income taxes.

Missouri: Republicans and Democrats in the legislature appear to be getting behind the idea of increasing taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel to fund road and bridge repairs but Gov. Eric Greitens, who wants to cut taxes, isn’t supporting the idea, St. Louis Public Radio reported last week. A task force recently recommended a 10-cent gas tax increase and 12-cent diesel tax increase to generate $430 million annually, about half of what the Missouri Department of Transportation says is needed.

Utah: Lawmakers are considering a number of measures aimed at helping the state plan its transportation future, including a bill to raise taxes on hotel rooms and rental cars and raise registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The bill would also automatically impose a local sales tax increase to fund transit in counties that don’t enact them by 2022. Meanwhile, the state Senate passed legislation last week that would allow electronic monitoring to assess road tolls on any state road, The Deseret News reported.

Washington: Sen. Phil Fortunato has proposed legislation that would use existing state sales tax dollars on the sale of motor vehicles to provide additional road funding, according to The Auburn Reporter. The bill received a hearing last week.

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker said recently he’d be open to the idea of a gas tax increase if it would help the state access federal infrastructure funding and if there are corresponding tax savings elsewhere, the Associated Press reported. Walker refused to consider a gas tax increase last year. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said last week the state needs to add toll roads if it wants to access federal transportation funds, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

Further Reading