Gov. Mead May Seek More Money for Road Budget

Wed November 27, 2013 - West Edition
CEG




CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) The passage of the state’s fuel tax hike earlier in the year has not ended the debate about funding Wyoming’s highway needs.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported that Gov. Matt Mead recently said he may ask for more money in his 2015-16 budget for the roads.

The 10-cent fuel tax hike lawmakers passed earlier in the year went into effect July 1. It is expected to generate $72.4 million a year for the state.

But only about $47 million of that goes to highways each year. Most of the rest is sent to cities, towns and counties.

A new Wyoming Department of Transportation report said the agency still needs $64 million more a year to maintain highways in their current condition.

Without additional funding, the report said, roadways will continue to deteriorate and cost more to repair in the future.

“For every dollar not spent on timely preventive maintenance, $4 to $8 will be needed for complete reconstruction a few years later,’’ the report reads.

About 19 percent of the highways are rated in “poor’’ condition. That number will rise to 26 percent by 2016 and 28 percent by 2020 under current state funding.

And this is based on the assumption that federal funding will stay at current levels.

Delbert McOmie, chief engineer with WYDOT, told lawmakers earlier that there is a decent chance federal funds will be cut in the next highway bill.

The current federal surface transportation act, known as “MAP-21’’ will expire Oct. 1.

If Congress does make cuts, it could be particularly painful for Wyoming since it gets a greater share of its funds from the federal government than most other states.

State government pays for a little more than a third of Wyoming’s highway costs; the federal government covers the rest.

If state funding is increased, it likely will have to come out of the state’s general fund.

That is because there has been no talk of further increasing the fuel tax. And lawmakers rejected a plan from Mead in 2011 to divert some of the state’s mineral tax revenues to highways.

Mead is in the process of finishing up his 2015-16 budget, which will be unveiled in December.

The Legislature’s Joint Transportation, Highway and Military Affairs Interim Committee is set to hear and discuss WYDOT’s budget needs later this month.

Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, who co-chairs that committee and is a member of the Joint Appropriations Committee, said he would support increasing the highway funding.

He added that it would be shortsighted to ignore the needs since the repairs will be costlier in the future.

“We need to take care of all of our infrastructure, including our roads, bridges, school system and buildings,’’ he said. “These are the things the government is supposed to be in charge of.’’

(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at www.constructionequipmentguide.com.)