The Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding met again yesterday to put the finishing touches on its report due to the Governor and General Assembly November 1. Many of the commission’s preliminary recommendations will remain in the final report, including recommendations to increase the gas tax by 5 cents for 3 consecutive years followed by indexing, a 50 percent increase to vehicle registration fees, and increasing the titling tax to 6.5 percent.
The recommendation that the legislature look into creating local taxing authorities to help fund transit projects, which was previously removed, was placed back in the list of recommendations after a number of commission members expressed their support.
The Commission determined a need of $870 million annually in new revenue to address transportation needs, which include $350 in highway user revenue (HUR) for counties and municipalities. The Commission previously recommended that the $350 million in HUR be phased in over 5 years once the initial $520 million is reached. After concerns were raised by county and municipal representatives, the phase in language was removed.
The Commission maintained its decision that revenue funding recommendations should be limited to areas with direct relationship to transportation, opting to exclude sources such as property and sales taxes, which were in a previous menu of funding options.
The final recommendations discussed include:
- Protect the Transportation Trust Fund through a constitutional amendment to ensure money designated for transportation are not diverted for other uses
- Change in statute to restore $350 million in local Highway User Revenues
- Increase in state’s 23.5 cent-per-gallon gas tax by five cents per year over the next three years ($491 million annually), followed by indexing to rate of inflation
- A 50 percent increase in vehicle registration fees ($165 million annually)
- Increase titling tax rate from 6 percent to 6.5 percent ($69 million annually)
- Increase MVA fees ($34 million annually)
- Double emissions fees from $14 to $28 ($22 million annually)
- Increase MTA fares and end free ridership program ($25 million annually)
- Create local transit taxing authorities