TranspoAdvocate NewsState & Local Funding News
TIAC staff tracks the latest state and local transportation funding news and provides regular updates on TranspoAdvocates News. To contribute to these efforts, contact Carolyn Kramer.
Oct. 26: Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Down Electric Vehicle Fee, Leaves Door Open for Subsequent Legislative Action
By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs & assistant general counsel, ARTBA
The Sierra Club won a legal victory in the state of Oklahoma Oct. 24 when a state supreme court decision struck down legislation that instituted registration fees on electric and hybrid vehicles. Despite the fact that the funds raised would go toward road and bridge construction and maintenance, public transit and passenger rail, the Sierra Club said the fees were improperly passed by the state legislature while also contending that “motor vehicle fees are not user fees.” The court agreed in a split 6-3 decision. The court said it struck down the electric and hybrid registration fee because it was improperly classified as a “fee” when it should have been classified as a “tax.” Since there are more legislative requirements for a “tax” than a “fee” under Oklahoma state law, the improper classification forced the court to strike down the fee. The Oklahoma Supreme Court made a similar ruling earlier this year on a recently-enacted cigarette tax.
The court took specific time to note in the decision that “[n]one of this is to say that the Legislature cannot place a tax on electric-drive and hybrid-drive vehicles to further the goal of equalizing the burdens of road maintenance,” only that it must meet the proper legislative and procedural requirements before doing so. The dissenting judges in the case provided further justification for the fees, noting “[t]he fees are to go to the State Highway Construction and Maintenance Fund to compensate the dollars required to maintain Oklahoma roads and highways, the same roads used by electric and hybrid driven vehicles. The fee is a fair exchange for this maintenance.” The full decision can be read here.
Louisiana voters approved a measure on Oct. 14 to dedicate all revenue from new taxes on motor fuel (created on or after July 1, 2017) to a Construction Subfund of the Transportation Trust Fund. This fund would be used by state and local governments for construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure, and prohibited for use on employee wages and retirement benefits. Read More>>
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced on Oct. 17 he would oppose any proposals that utilize general fund revenue to solve the state’s $478 million transportation funding shortfall. While the Arkansas Highway Commission had previously announced plans to place a transportation funding measure on the November 2018 ballot, Department of Transportation Director Scott Bennett said he would consider waiting until 2019 for lawmakers to reach a solution in the state legislature. Read More>>
Transportation funding experts will come together to explore 2017 general election results and ballot measure campaigns during a free hour-long webinar on Nov. 9, hosted by ARTBA’s Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™ (TIAC). Speakers will provide a deep dive into the Nov. 7 election outcomes, including insight into congressional races as well as state and local ballot measure results, and overall transportation funding trends from recent years. Research into the reelection rates of lawmakers who supported and opposed a gas tax increase will also be explored.
The free Nov. 9 webinar begins at 3 p.m., Eastern, but requires advance registration.
The session will feature:
Dave Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA. Bauer will discuss the results of the 2017 General Election congressional races, and what they means for the transportation construction industry. Bauer will also share his insight on transportation funding developments on Capitol Hill.
Carolyn Kramer, deputy director, ARTBA. Kramer will discuss the outcome of over 200 state, county and local transportation funding ballot measure results from 2017. She will also explore results from previous years and transportation funding trends. Additionally, Kramer will provide insight into the latest research that explores the reelection rates of state lawmakers that have both supported and opposed gas tax increases in 17 states.
The Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™ is an internet-based educational platform that features detailed reports, analyses and case studies of recent transportation funding campaigns—both successful and unsuccessful—mounted in numerous states. It includes television, radio and print ads, polling, an overview of state and local funding and finance mechanisms, and an ongoing blog detailing new developments across the nation.
The Center’s program of work is also guided by the Transportation Investment Advocates Council™, a national network of business professionals and public officials who share a common interest in building support for transportation infrastructure investments in their state or local community.
Please contact Carolyn Kramer at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) approved a bill on Oct. 10 that will ask Bay Area residents to permit a toll increase on seven regional bridges. If voters approve the measure, expected to be on the ballot in 2018, an estimated $4.2 billion will be raised for local transportation projects. The governor also approved a measure that enables the Caltrain Board of Directors to ask voters for approval of a local sales tax to enhance San Francisco to San Jose commuter rail service. Read More>>
Raleigh, North Carolina, residents overwhelmingly approved a $206.7 million bond measure on Oct. 10 to kick-start local transportation projects. The bond, funded by a 1.29 cent property tax increase, received 72 percent approval in early results. Read More>>
Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development secretary Shawn Wilson warned state lawmakers on Oct. 11 that the agency has only $691 million this year to fund transportation improvements and is facing a $13.1 billion backlog in projects. Read More>>
Mississippi Sen. Dean Kirby (R- District 30) plans to introduce legislation in 2018 to ask voters for approval of a comprehensive transportation funding proposal, including increasing the state gas tax by 1.5 cents-per-gallon, instituting a $150 electric vehicle fee and $75 hybrid vehicle fee, and creating a new care tire fee. Inspired by Georgia T-SPLOST initiatives, the measure would be placed on the ballot in every transportation district in the state. Read More>>
Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary David Ross on Sept. 29 requested that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) rescind approval of a road reconstruction project on I-94 between the Marquette and Zoo Interchanges. The federal agency had previously warned the state that authorization would be revoked if a funding plan wasn’t presented by Sept. 30. In addition to funding challenges, the Sierra Club and the Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope sued in March in an attempt to get public transit included in the I-94 project plan. Read More>>
West Virginia voters took to the polls in an Oct. 7 special election to overwhelmingly approve a measure that will provide $1.6 billion in bonds over the next four years to jumpstart the state’s road construction plan. Early results accessed Oct. 8 show the bond receiving 72.82 percent approval from voters. The “Roads to Prosperity” measure is expected to create 48,000 immediate jobs and provide funding for 500 transportation projects.
In June, West Virginia passed a bill to increase transportation funding by $135 million annually through a combination of various measures, including adjusting the variable-rate state gas tax, increasing department of motor vehicle (DMV) fees, instituting a new electric and hybrid vehicle fee, and raising the state sales tax on vehicles. This revenue, in combination with the existing privilege tax and turnpike tolls, will be used to repay the bonds over the next 25 years.
The measure was championed by Gov. Jim Justice (R), who led a statewide tour in the preceding weeks to promote the measure. Gov. Justice cited current low interest rates, growing forecasts for future inflation and construction costs, and critical job creation to keep West Virginians in the state as keys to the necessity of this measure.
“They’ve [the voters] spoken, and they’ve spoken loud. They’ve spoken with a mandate, and they’ve spoken that they want jobs, and they want opportunities, and they want change, and they want hope,” Gov. Justice said in a press conference following the results. “Now it all starts. Now the work starts. Now the hiring starts. Now the jobs come. Now the revenue comes. This is an unbelievable moment in the state of West Virginia, the absolute most historic vote in the state of West Virginia hands down. This will be our starting point, and we’ll build on this.”
“We’ve never been able to get 70-plus percent of our voters to vote for anything. …We are absolutely on our way to being something other than 50th.”
ARTBA research has found that 74 percent of over 1,000 state and local transportation funding ballot measures have been approved in the past decade.