Gas tax could have wide effects - KOTA Territory News

Gas tax could have wide effects

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The Department of Transportation claims without major funding help, Wyoming roads could seriously deteriorate.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation depends on the state's gas tax for funding, but since gas revenues are down, the agency is hoping the legislature will boost the gas tax by ten cents a gallon.

"Currently, we're about $134 million short of meeting the amount to maintain the system as it is," said Mark Gillett, the district engineer at the WYDOT Sheridan field office.

But businesses like Western Transport in Sheridan, which sends its trucks all over the state and country, would see a significant rise in costs.

"It'll raise our operating revenue by $40,000.  Our fleet travels 1,750,000 miles on average in the state of Wyoming per year," said owner Rob Goss.

And Goss does not think his business is the only one who would feel the tax hike's effects.

"We're hoping that they won't have to raise it 10 cents.  But if they do, we'll have to adjust our rates and the cost of goods is going to be more expensive in Wyoming," said Goss.

The gas tax has not been able to support WYDOT for years, but the state was able to dip into its surplus to help.  Now lawmakers say they can't do that this year due to budget cuts.

"We're looking at budget deficits and we're trying to cut back on the budget.  We can't afford to give that $100-200 million a year to WYDOT to make up for its shortfall, said State Senator Bruce Burns (R-Sheridan).

Nowadays WYDOT really only has resources to do patchwork maintenance, instead of undertaking new road projects.  Without the tax increase, the agency worries about what could happen to Wyoming's highways.

"The rate of deterioration, if not curved, is going to take a lot more money later to bring it back up to its current standard," said Gillett.

WYDOT believes the higher gas tax would bring in $50 million to the agency.

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