Treasurer Wants Gas Tax for Bridge Work

Thu January 01, 2009 - Northeast Edition

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) Vermont Treasurer Jeb Spaulding wants to increase the state tax on motor fuels by 5 cents a gallon to help the state alleviate a backlog in new bridge construction.

A report issued Nov. 19 by Spaulding estimated the tax would raise $20 million per year, money that could be used to repay bonds that would be issued to pay for the bridge projects.

“The fact is that bridges are getting further and further into disrepair, and it’s going to cost us more and more to fix them if we let the situation deteriorate further,’’ Spaulding said. “With the current revenue stream going down, we’ve got a recipe for disaster.’’

The Vermont Transportation Agency estimates the state needs between $900 million and $1.1 billion over the next 10 years to meet “structural performance goals’’ for bridge projects.

Spaulding estimated there was an annual funding gap of between $30 million and $50 million.

The new tax would cover payments on a bonding package that could raise about $150 million for new projects, he said.

Spaulding was asked by the Legislature to analyze infrastructure needs and the wisdom of bonding to meet those needs.

Spaulding said he considered other revenue streams, including tolls, vehicle taxes, impact fees and sales taxes, but none worked as well as a gas tax, which has remained steady at 20 cents a gallon since 1997.

Transportation Secretary David Dill said he favored other sources of revenue for transportation projects.

“I’m not real enthused about that,’’ Dill said of Spaulding’s proposal. “We believe adding this tax hurts the average Vermonter who is struggling with energy costs.’’