Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Interim Committee will take another swing at raising the state’s gasoline tax after failing to connect during this year’s session.

The committee voted 8-6 Tuesday to approve sponsorship of a bill to raise gasoline and diesel taxes by 3 cents per gallon. The Wyoming Department of Transportation estimates that would add about $20 million in revenue annually. After it’s split between cities, counties and WYDOT, the state would have about $13 million more per year to put toward road maintenance.

While that’s a drop in the bucket of the more than $73.3 million in unmet construction and maintenance needs the state faces, WYDOT Director Luke Reiner said it would at least mean some headway.

“This would help us keep the roads at the level they are,” Reiner said Tuesday during the meeting in Cheyenne. “Obviously, any money helps.”

A 3-cent hike would mark the first time the state has raised its gas tax since 2014. In that time, Reiner said, 27 other states have raised theirs.

Wyoming has the 34th lowest fuel tax in the country. In the region, only Colorado’s is lower. But Reiner pointed out that Wyoming’s neighbor is able to fund some of its road needs with an income tax, an option Wyoming doesn’t have.

This isn’t the first time the Revenue Committee has tried to increase the state’s fuel tax. It sponsored a bill for the 2019 session that tied the fuel tax rate to the Consumer Price Index. As the index increased, the state would have been able to adjust the tax to keep up with factors like inflation.

But that bill died in committee without even being introduced in the House.

Some opponents of the 2019 bill spoke in favor of the 2020 proposal specifically because it didn’t include the ability to increase the tax without a legislative vote.

Bobby Rolston, chairman of the Wyoming Taxpayers Association, said his organization hadn’t had a chance to discuss the proposed increase, but at first blush, he said, he thought his group could support it because it didn’t have an indexing component.

Mark Larson, executive vice president of the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association, said his group could get behind a 3-cent increase. But anything would make Wyoming uncompetitive with neighboring states.

Not all groups opposed to the 2019 bill were onboard for the new version. Brett Moline, director of public and governmental affairs for the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, said his members would be significantly hurt by the tax increase.

Farmers operate on razor thin margins, Moline said, and the 3-cent increase would drive up transportation costs and, in turn, production costs.

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