NCSL Alternative Transportation User Fees Meeting – Indianapolis

On Sunday, August 13, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) hosted their Alternative Transportation User Fees Foundation Partnership Meeting in Indianapolis preceding their Legislative Summit. At this meeting, Eno presented the recommendations from our recent report “Driving Change: Advice for the National VMT-Fee Pilot,” focusing especially on testing needs that still exist at the state level. Eno’s recommendations include outstanding testing needs to inform a potential federal VMT-fee program that can be tested at the state level, including trucking rate structures, equity considerations for un-banked individuals, telematics access strategies, and considerations for international border crossings. The full report can be accessed here.

At the partnership meeting, state legislators shared what their states had (or hadn’t done) for transportation funding over the past year. Here’s what stood out:

Colorado: State law in Colorado prohibits any increase to the gas tax by the legislature (they must be voter-approved). Instead, Colorado has been implementing fees on specific road uses, such as on deliveries (everything from Amazon to DoorDash) and rideshare. All those fees increased this month, a schedule which was built into the original legislation. Statewide, every road program has to include climate mitigations. 30 percent of state transportation funding is spent public transit. Denver is home to the largest fare-free program in the country, which is in effect in the high ozone months of July and August.

Connecticut: The sate implemented a highway use tax for heavy-vehicles over 26,000 pounds. Implementation was slow going, and enforcement has been challenging.

Hawaii: In July, Hawaii passed legislation graduating their VMT-fee pilot into an opt-in program for electric vehicles. EV owners can opt to pay by the mile instead of a $50 EV registration surcharge, and potentially pay less.

Kansas: Kansas is in the planning stages of a VMT-fee pilot, in conjunction with Minnesota, focusing on rural areas.

Louisiana: The state has not raised its gas tax in 31 years. Two years ago, a coalition attempted to raise support for a gas tax increase but was unsuccessful.

Maryland: For many years, the state’s highway trust fund had a surplus, which often was used to support general spending. Governor Larry Hogan cut a lot of those trust fund revenues and now the inverse is true. The new administration is attempting to bolster the trust fund again, returning to a more sustainable spending model.

Michigan: Increased the gas tax 1.4 cents this year. The Michigan Department of Transportation just announced it is exploring a possible GPS-based VMT-fee.

Minnesota: After the 2022 elections, Minnesota Democrats inherited a $17.5 billion budget surplus allowing them to implement a $2.6 billion infrastructure capital investment bill. They also indexed the gas tax to inflation, implemented a delivery fee, and levied a transit tax in the Twin Cities Metro Area. A VMT-fee bill has not yet passed its legislature, but one is being modeled off the successful legislation passed in Utah to initiate its program.

Nevada: A gas tax holiday was implemented this year in Nevada. The state is focusing on the “electric highway,” so EV owners can reliably get from Reno to Las Vegas.

New Hampshire: A registration surcharge for electric vehicles is being considered by the state legislature

Utah: Utah’s VMT-fee program continues with just electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles. The program has been expensive to administer, and eligibility will likely be narrowed to only electric vehicles in the future. Some cities in Utah have implemented a transportation utility fee for their roads, which was unsuccessfully challenged in court. The state legislature is exploring putting some guardrails on this practice.

Vermont: A VMT-fee program based on odometer readings taken during mandatory annual vehicle inspections will be taken up by the legislature next session. This past year, a transportation package included increases on registration fees and driver’s license renewal fees.

Wyoming: Two unsuccessful bills proposed two tolling stations along Interstate 80 that would charge anywhere from $2-6 to traverse the entire state. The majority of state maintenance funds in Wyoming go to that single roadway, disproportionately benefitting out-of-state drivers just passing through. The gas tax in Wyoming has not been increased in a decade.

(Ed. Note: Also, check out a story in POLITICO yesterday that includes a map of all 50 states and the status of extra registration fees for electric vehicles in each state.)

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