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Fuel tax passes, awaits governor's signature

Feb 15, 2013 - The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- A proposal to raise state fuel taxes by a dime a gallon cleared its final vote in the state Senate on Thursday. It now heads to Gov. Matt Mead, who has said he favors a tax hike.

The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 18-12. The measure would raise the tax from the existing rate of 14 cents a gallon up to 24 cents for gasoline and diesel.

The tax hike would raise about $70 million a year, of which roughly two-thirds would go to the Wyoming Department of Transportation and one-third to local governments.

A coalition including contractors and the Wyoming Taxpayers Association has lobbied for the bill, saying the Transportation Department needs a steady source of state funding to allow it to plan projects more efficiently.

But Thursday's vote came over the objections of a few senators who said working people can't afford a tax hike. They suggested the transportation agency could meet its obligations without more revenue if it operated more efficiently.

Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, said he heard opposition to the prospect of raising the fuel tax when he went door-to-door in his re-election campaign. He said many people believe the Department of Transportation is inefficient.

"They were saying, 'We just can't afford any more taxes. We do not want more taxes,'" Scott said. "That's perfectly reasonable. That's why this is a representative democracy, so that we can reflect the views of the people on the government taking their money involuntarily for taxes."

Sen. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange, said raising the tax would increase the cost on everything that's delivered over roadways in the state.

"Federal taxes are going up. There's no doubt about that," Meier said. "Wages are stagnant. People are losing their purchasing power. The price of gas is going up with or without taxes."

Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, is chairman of the Senate Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee.

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