July 2017 News & JFI Update 7/31/2017
Just Fix It Update 
A Conservative Case for a Gas Tax Hike

David Prosser’s five-step plan for funding our roads BY DAVID PROSSER 

July 20, 2017

David Prosser represented the Appleton area in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1979 through 1996, including two years as Speaker. He was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1998 and retired last year. 

One of the principal responsibilities of modern government is to raise the money necessary to establish and maintain an outstanding highway system. This often requires courage. Although almost everyone supports good roads, almost no one is eager to pay for them.

Wisconsin is presently mired in a budget stalemate over transportation funding. There are legitimate disputes about how to calculate the gap in the budget, but there is no dispute that the transportation fund needs hundreds of millions of additional dollars. Gov. Scott Walker and Senate Republicans favor borrowing the money; Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wants to raise revenue.

A person who is happily retired from public office has a lot more freedom to suggest solutions than officials who are still in the arena.

Here are my unpleasant but honest suggestions:

Raise the gasoline tax at least 5 cents per gallon  and index for future annual adjustments.  Read more

Reluctant States Raise Gas Taxes to Repair Roads
Pew Trust 
July 26, 2017

Motorists don’t like to pay more at the pump, and lawmakers worry that if they raise taxes on gasoline, they’ll be voted out of office. But states rely on those taxes to build and maintain roads and bridges. With revenue lagging, those structures have been falling into disrepair in many places.

Despite the tough politics, 26 states have raised taxes on motor fuels in the past four years. The eight states that raised taxes this year include Tennessee and South Carolina, deep-red states dominated by fiscal conservatives.

“We’ve seen more bipartisan agreement on raising gas taxes than almost any other tax out there,” said Jared Walczak, senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, a right-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C.

Lawmakers say the sorry condition of their state’s roads and bridges compelled them to act.

“The deterioration of the infrastructure, particularly the highways, in South Carolina was the impetus,” House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, a Republican, said of the law he shepherded through the Legislature. Over half the roads in South Carolina are in poor condition, according to the state Transportation Department.  Read more
News from around the Nation
Oregon Legislature Passes $5.3 Billion Transportation Funding Bill

Oregon legislators approved a bill earlier this month that will provide an estimated $5.3 billion in new transportation revenue over the next decade.

According to the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center, the legislation will:
  • Gradually increase the state gas tax by 10 cents-per-gallon, beginning with 4 cents in 2018 and increasing 2 cents every other year through 2024;
  • Raise vehicle registration fees to $56;
  • Institute a new fee, beginning in 2020, that is charged based on a vehicle’s gas mileage. The rates begin at $18 for vehicles with a gas mileage rating of 0-19 miles-per-gallon (MPG); $23 for those with a rating of 20-39 MPG; and $33 for those with a rating of 40 MPG or greater (excluding electric vehicles);
  • Create a new $110 fee for electric vehicles;
  • Impose a new vehicle excise tax of 0.5 percent of the vehicle’s retail sales price;
  • Institute a bicycle tax of $15 for any new adult bicycle purchased for $200 or more, used partially to provide rebates for electric vehicles; and
  • Create a new 0.1 percent state payroll tax that will fund mass transit.

Governor Brown is expected to sign the bill into law. 

With Funding in Place, Indiana Kicks off 20-Year Transportation Plan

Recently, Gov. Eric Holcomb kicked off the state’s Next Level Roads bridge and road improvement program that will span 20 years.

“Our transportation network of roads and bridges plays a major part in Indiana’s success story both now and in the future,” Holcomb says. “With a fully-funded plan in place for the next 20 years, Hoosiers can rest assured that Indiana will remain the Crossroads of America for generations to come. I thank our lawmakers for their committed leadership to make this possible, and I commend INDOT for working hard to identify key projects so that we could be ready to roll with this five-year plan so quickly.”

Over the next five years, Indiana will invest roughly $4.7 billion.  It is estimated this will allow the state to resurface approximately 10,000 lanes miles of pavement and repair or replace about 1,300 bridges.

Earlier this year, Indiana enacted a funding package that is expected to provide $1.2 billion annually.

And South Carolina Launches 10-Year Plan to Rebuild the State's Highway System

SCDOT has mapped out a decade-long plan designed to rebuild decayed roads and replace structurally deficient bridges all across the state. The foundation of this mission began July 1 when the Roads Bill passed by the General Assembly became law.

The bill is expected to raise $640 million annually. 

A new program, the Rural Road Safety Program, is being launched as part of the plan. South Carolina has the highest rural road fatality rate in the nation. In preparation for this program, SCDOT traffic engineers have identified the rural roads that are the most dangerous.

Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said this program is aimed at the worst-of-the worst roads. "The research done by our engineers has revealed that 30% of our highway deaths occur on only 5% of our highways and these roads are in our rural areas. We plan to invest $50 million of the new funds into this program each year to save as many lives as possible," she said. Read more

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