Sen. Phil Fortunato’s bold proposal on transportation funding will receive a public hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee Monday.
The measure, Senate Bill 5743, would fundamentally change how the state pays for transportation infrastructure projects by providing a stable and fair alternative to the unpopular vehicle mileage tax proposal. Fortunato’s plan, ‘Fully Fund Transportation,’ uses existing state sales tax dollars on the sale of motor vehicles to provide additional funding for the gas tax account to build roads.
“The transportation infrastructure needs of the state are staggering,” said Fortunato. “From the need to replace the Columbia River Bridge to the two small bridges I need for my district, there is a huge need for more funding. At the current rate of expenditure, projects are obsolete before all the connecting projects are done. Rather than reach into the pockets of the people for more tax dollars when they are already taxed to death, especially with the looming carbon tax and income tax proposals on the horizon, we need an innovative solution like the one I’m proposing.”
The proposal uses existing revenue and details a plan to demonstrate how expenditures can return more revenue back to the state to help pay for the proposal. Similar to the assumptions used to justify the recent 11.9-cent gas tax increase, the economic impacts and revenue returns justify the expenditure.
“Some argue that if you just raise the gas tax, it will do all this great stuff for the economy,” added Fortunato. “Well, if that’s true, why do you need to raise my taxes?”
An analysis by the Office of the State Treasurer notes that as more people move to electric vehicles, which the state already subsidizes, gas tax revenue will decline. If gas tax revenue fails to cover the cost of outstanding transportation bonds, the general fund will have to cover the difference. Fortunato’s FFT is a planned and controlled process rather than a panicked reaction to the impending shortfall, he noted. An economic analysis of the proposal is available here.