"The average national price of a gallon of gas hit an all-time record high of $3.15 this week. Meaning that wherever you're going this summer, it might be cheaper to mail your car."
-- Amy Poehler
While there has been much in the way of new transportation construction in the state, there remains solemn uneasiness on the part of local government.
Miles and miles of asphalt roads and highways are constructed each year by new developments and by the local governing bodies that accommodate them. Impact fees and exactions are intended to help fund the needed infrastructure and are mechanisms to ensure that new development pays its own way. However, once the road is in, it belongs to the local government and must be maintained, (plowed, resurfaced and repaired) solely by that civic entity.
The money to do this comes from two sources: the general revenues collected from property and sales tax within the municipality, and B and C Road funds (the C roads are city and town infrastructure), which are taxes collected on each gallon of gasoline sold. Those taxes are currently set at 24.5 cents per gallon. Of that, 30 percent goes to local governments to fund road costs and 70 percent goes to the state. This formula has been the same since the 1990s.
Unfortunately for the tax, (but perhaps fortunate for the vehicle owner) cars have become much more fuel efficient. Not only has the set tax not increased to reflect an increase in the costs of labor and maintenance required to care for an ever-increasing number of miles of road, but the vehicles are traveling more miles on the same tank of gas. The result is less money to take care of more miles of road.
A number of solutions have been proposed during the current legislative session, including a local option sales tax so local municipalities, through their county governments, could raise the tax at the pump by a percentage rate (realistically not to exceed 1 percent).
Another recommendation is to index the tax at the pump to the number of miles that a vehicle drives regardless of how many gallons of gas it uses. This solution is much more complicated in its tracking and in achieving fairness relating, for example, to the size of a vehicle.
Taxation is a difficult issue for any lawmaker to tackle. The volatility of gasoline pricing doesn't help in the application of the motor fuels tax, due to the extra burden being placed on both industry and individuals. There is a waning appetite to confront the inevitable.
However, an answer must be found that will provide local government with the adequate means to accommodate the maintenance of critical transportation roads.
Steve Curtis has worked as a business consultant and communication specialist. He is currently mayor of Layton. He can be reached at email@example.com.