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A state-by-state look at transportation initiatives

July 10, 2015
It’s no secret that there’s been a perpetual logjam on Capitol Hill these last few years regarding passage of long-term surface transportation funding bill; a situation that doesn’t seem likely to be solved anytime soon.

Yet the need to maintain and repair existing roadways and bridges – when not outright replacing them – as well as demand to build new ones isn’t declining.

And as we all know, taking care of transportation infrastructure requires money; quite a lot of it actually, though just how much is a hotly disputed topic in some corners.

Thus state governments are stepping up their efforts to gather transportation funding on their own through a variety of measures – imposing fuel tax hikes, new fees, plus the creation of more toll roads alongside higher toll rates.

[Oregon, however, thinks fuel taxes are outmoded; you can read more about that here.]

That’s not always a welcome development, either. Take Pennsylvania, for example: its hiked toll collection rates for eight straight years. In 2014 it raised toll rates 12% for cash customers and 2% for E-Z Pass users, followed by a 5% across-the-board increase for 2015 and now a 6% spike for 2016; again, for all toll road users.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, however, where state transportation funding initiatives are concerned – but thanks to the tireless work of C. Kenneth Orski (at left) you can view a complete synopsis of what’s going on in that arena across the country.

Orski, a noted public policy consultant and 30-year veteran transportation expert – who served as associate administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford – recently pulled together a state-by-state list of transportation funding efforts culled from: the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Transportation Investment Advocacy Center news bulletins; the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Daily Transportation Updates; the Transportation for America (T4America) survey State Legislation to Raise Transportation Revenue; plus official press announcements.   

Some of the legislative efforts noted below are still only in the “proposal stage” and so might not witness successful passage. Yet it all serves to reinforce an important point: that state governments – like it or not – are stepping up efforts to collect more money for transportation needs on their own.  

Iowa: The Iowa legislature approved a 10-cent per gallon gas tax increase in February 2015, which will allow $700 million in spending on state highway projects and $200 million in local projects annually.

Utah: The Utah legislature passed a bill in March that will increase the gas tax by 5 cents/gallon, add a 12% tax on the wholesale price of gasoline and permit counties to seek voter approval for a local sales tax for local transportation projects. A large number of cities have passed resolutions in support of putting the tax increase on the ballot.

North Dakota: Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law a bill that will provide $450 million for state highway improvements. Another bill, known as the Surge Funding Bill, will dedicate $1.1 billion from the state's Strategic Investment and Improvement Fund for critical infrastructure projects. 

South Dakota: The state legislature approved a fuel tax increase of 6 cents per gallon in March. The bill also raises vehicle license fees and gives local governments authority to levy their own road improvement fees. The measure is expected to generate over $80 million/year for state and local programs.

Ohio: The House-Senate conference committee approved a $7 billion transportation budget for the next two years and sent the bill to the Governor.

Mississippi: The Mississippi legislature voted to raise $200 million in bond financing to pay for transportation improvements, most of them targeted at structurally deficient bridges. The measure takes effect July 1. DOT Secretary Melinda McGrath linked the legislature's action to lack of action by Congress.

Idaho: The Idaho legislature passed a compromise $94.1 million transportation bill in April, funded with a 7-cent increase in the fuel tax and vehicle registration fees. 

Minnesota: The Minnesota legislature passed a $5.5 billion, two-year transportation bill in May, essentially keeping transportation funding at current levels.

Georgia: Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law a bill in May that will increase transportation funding by $900 million per year through increases in fuel taxes and vehicle fees. Georgia thus joins Idaho, Iowa, South Dakota and Utah to have increased their gas tax to generate recurring transportation revenue. The measure also allows local governments to increase transportation-related taxes. Voters within the city of Atlanta voters also approved a $188 million transportation infrastructure bond.

Massachusetts: Gov. Charlie Baker signed in April a $200 million road bond bill. State transportation officials proposed roughly $3 billion in capital transportation projects in fiscal year 2016 for highways, small airports and transit needs, according to press reports.

Nebraska: The Nebraska legislature approved in May, a 6-cent/gallon gas tax increase over the next four years, eventually expected to generate $76 million annually. In July, the Cornhusker state said its 2016 fiscal year State Highway Program will be funded at $505 million and the Local System Program at $334 million. 

South Carolina: Obscured by the historic vote to remove the confederate battle flag from its statehouse grounds, South Carolina’s House of Representatives approved a 10 cent/gallon increase (or 60% hike) for gas taxes that will provide at least $370 million for transportation projects. The measure needs to be reconciled with a Senate bill that would generate $800 million.

Pennsylvania: The Keystone state’s house of representatives passed a measure that will provide up to $2.3 billion in annual transportation funding for highways ($1.3 billion), transit ($500 million), and local road maintenance. The measure raises revenue mainly by removing a cap on the franchise tax paid by fuel distributors. The Senate is expected to take up the measure next.

Vermont: Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signed a $616 million transportation bill authorizing funds for FY 2016. The bill includes $116 million for bridges and $100 million for road resurfacing.

New Hampshire: Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) signed into law on May 24 a bill to increase the state gas tax by 4.2 cents/gallon. The funds will be used for reconstruction of roadways, bridges an Interstate 93. This legislation provides the first state gas tax increase in 23 years.

California: The Golden State’s Senate is considering a bill that would raise the state gas tax by 10 cents/gallon and increase vehicle sales and registration taxes. The bill is projected to generate more than $4 billion annually. In the lower house, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D) proposed to create a road user fee to raise $2 billion over five years. A compromise state budget plan is yet to emerge. 

Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed three transportation-related bills that, in his words, provide "a historic amount of funding" to build roads. The bills include a measure that ends about $1.3 billion in diversions of gas tax money for non-highway items and a provision for a November referendum to approve amending the state constitution to dedicate $2.5 billion of the general sales tax and a portion of future motor vehicle sales taxes to the highway fund. The combined pieces of legislation provide more than $4 billion a year for transportation.

Oregon: This month the Beaver State launches its new voluntary road usage charge program (OReGO) that proponents view as a potential transportation funding model for the nation, replacing the motor fuel tax.

North Carolina: Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has proposed a $2.85 billion bond initiative (Connect NC) to finance his 25-year statewide multimodal "Vision for Transportation” plan.  The proposal includes a $1.37 billion highway bond that would fund 27 highway construction projects and 176 paving projects in 64 counties throughout the state. If approved by the General Assembly, the bond proposal will be placed on the ballot in November.

New Mexico: Gov. Susana Martinez (R) signed a $294 million infrastructure construction bill largely paid for with bonds and cash reserves. The measure includes more than $70 million for highways and $45 million for major critical road projects.

Virginia: The Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board approved a six-year $13.3 billion Transportation Improvement Program. Of the total, $9.9 billion will go toward highway construction projects, with the remaining $3.4 billion dedicated to rail and transit. The 2016 fiscal year state budget contains nearly $2 billion for highway construction and an equal amount for highway maintenance and operation. The budget represents a 21% increase over the 2015 fiscal year.

Maryland: Even as he began a long battle against an aggressive form of cancer, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced in June some $1.97 billion in funding for transportation across the state. Of that, $845 million is for major highway construction projects and $500 million for bridge repair, while the remaining $625 million is for maintenance and preservation. Also announced was a commitment of $168 million as state contribution to the Washington D.C. Metro Purple Line; a long-awaited suburban extension of its subway system.

Louisiana: Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) signed two bills on June 29 that increase state funding for roads and bridges by about $100 million a year starting next year.

Delaware: The Delaware Legislature approved an increase in motor vehicle fees for an additional $23.9 million/year for the state's Transportation Trust Fund. The revenue generated by the fee increase is expected to be matched by $24 million in borrowing over the next six years. Earlier, the legislature approved a $1 weekend toll hike to generate $10 million/year for transportation funding.

Connecticut: The Connecticut General Assembly approved $2.8 billion in transportation bonds for the next five years. The law provides $795 million for the next two years and $2 billion for the following three years. This would be the largest investment in transportation in the state's history, noted Governor Dannel Malloy (D).

Washington: House and Senate transportation leaders reached agreement on June 28 on a $15 billion transportation revenue package funded in part by an incremental 11.9 cent/gallon increase in the state fuel tax. The plan has been in negotiation for months. "The current plan is the most positive movement that we've seen on transportation in this state for many, many years," said first-term Sen. Joe Fain (R), vice chairman of the Evergreen state’s Senate Transportation Committee, who is also the youngest elected member of that legislative body.

Michigan: The Michigan Senate approved a plan on July 1 to boost the current 19-cent/gallon state gas tax by 15 cents/gallon over three years and redirect revenue from the general fund to generate a total of $1.5 billion per year in transportation funding. The gas tax increase alone will generate $822 million per year when fully phased in according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. The Senate action still needs to be reconciled with the House proposals before going to the Governor for signature. In mid-June, the state House of Representatives had approved a series of measures that would increase the gas tax and diesel tax to 34 cents/gallon by 2017; and index them for inflation. If approved, Michigan would become the 8th state to increase the state gas tax in 2015.

Maine: The Maine legislature approved and Gov. Paul LePage (R) signed a bill to place an $85 million bond proposal for road and bridge reconstruction on the November ballot.

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin state legislature voted $850 million in borrowing to pay for transportation in the new budget approved in early July. The measure represents a $450 million cut in the $1.3 billion proposal made by Gov. Scott Walker (R).   

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr 1 | Senior Editor

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