State Transportation Funding Moves Slowly in 2016


bridges“Transportation Funding” was named a top 5 issue by The Council on State Governments for the 2016 legislative session. However, unlike the eight states who raised the gas tax in 2015 (Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah and Washington) we have seen few states make the leap toward investing in infrastructure in 2016.

The first state to sign a major infrastructure funding bill into law this session is Rhode Island. The Rhode Works program aims to raise revenue that will allow the state to rebuild roads and bridges making Rhode Island more attractive to businesses.  By assessing user fees to large commercial trucks it becomes the last northeastern state to adopt this revenue stream.  Rhode Island Department of Transportation is hopeful the additional revenue will help them leverage federal dollars and enable the state to tackle maintenance and rehabilitation projects that will bring additional jobs.

While Rhode Island has already taken action, ASCE is keeping a close eye on many of the states that appear on CSG’s “States to Watch” list. Here is an overview of what we’re watching around the country:

  • California – Like Oregon to its north, California is embarking on a Road Charge Pilot Program. It is currently seeking volunteers to participate in pilot program that will assess a fee based on distance travelled or period of time they use the roads, rather than gas consumption. The pilot kicks off in July 2016 and the findings will be used to develop a model that can be fully implemented statewide.
  • Connecticut – Governor Dannel Malloy has been a longtime advocate for improving the state’s infrastructure. His Let’s Go CT! plan is a 30 year vision for the future of Connecticut’s transportation system.  Investment in this plan hinges on the legislature’s ability to send a “lockbox” measure to the ballot.
  • Delaware – A 10-cent per gallon gas tax proposal has again surfaced in Delaware. While this may conjure memories of Governor Jack Markell’s push back in 2014, the current proposal is to raise the tax for a single year and revisit the need to continue the tax in the future.  This boost in revenue would come on top of the increase in driver’s fees passed into law in 2015.
  • Indiana – This state came into the legislative session with Governor Mike Pence’s $1 billion transportation proposal last fall. Fast forward to recent weeks and the gas tax increase that could have been allocated toward these projects is now off the table. We are keep a close eye as proposed revenue streams change and bills continue to move forward as the legislature is in its final few weeks of session.
  • Missouri – The legislature here once again finds itself debating a gas tax increase. The state finds itself having to make Tough Choices Ahead as it determines whether the current transportation revenue streams will generate enough income for the state to leverage federal dollars.  The Governor is in favor of a gas tax increase however, opponents have been successful at keeping a bill from advancing in either chamber.
  • Nebraska – Coming off a session that passed a 6-cent phased in increase of its gas tax, Nebraska is looking to do still more for statewide transportation infrastructure. The legislature is looking to create an Infrastructure Bank with the full support of the Governor.  The bill is still making its way through the unicameral legislature.
  • New Jersey – Here the legislature has already decided to put a measure on the fall ballot that will dedicate all gas tax revenue to transportation projects. This is just one of many steps needed to ensure the state’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) remains solvent.  The state is currently projects the TTF could be insolvent by this summer and recent reports say the state has already reached its borrowing limit for new road and bridge repair work. We are hopeful Governor Chris Christie and the legislature will arrive at a compromise.

We also expect to see proposals from Minnesota and Louisiana, which have not yet convened their regular sessions. Whether it is a gas tax, vehicle miles traveled, or public-private partnerships, ASCE supports an all options on the table approach to ensuring transportation infrastructure receives adequate funding.

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