We Need Good Highways
The gate has opened, and the discussion is ongoing. The Governor has finalized his budget and appeared before the Appropriations Committee of our State Legislature to present it. One of the issues he mentioned at this week’s Wyoming Natural Resources Rendezvous is how do we take adequate care of our highways and, more importantly – how do we pay for it?
This is one of those subjects that almost everyone has an opinion about, including myself. We all want good roads, we all need good roads and highways, in Wyoming, they are our lifelines. Some make their living by traveling, while others just spend their recreational time on them, but highways are important to everyone.
The million-dollar question is, just where do we find the money to keep our highways in good shape? If we let them deteriorate too much, it will really get expensive to repair them. Time is not on our side, and we need the dollars soon.
Some have suggested developing toll booths on the Interstate highways. Some say, cut state government even more than the Governor’s projected eight percent cuts, and the Governor and others say we should institute a 10 cent state fuel tax increase.
Currently, the total tax on each gallon of gasoline in Wyoming is 32.4 cents. Of that, 18.4 cents is a federal tax and 14 cents is for the state excise tax. On diesel fuel, the federal tax is 24.4 cents, and the state tax is like gasoline – 14 cents. Those in favor of raising the gas tax cite the statistic that Wyoming is the second lowest cumulative fuel tax in the country, and there are those who say if we can afford it, why not be the lowest in the country?
Well, this year, and most likely in the future, we can disregard being the lowest in the country – taxes usually don’t go down. Those against the tax hike say it will increase almost everything we buy in Wyoming, as most of the products come into the state or leave the state by truck. A 10 cent hike would be passed on to the consumers. The Wyoming Taxpayers Association claims a hike would be painlessly absorbed by the gas retailing industry, something the retailing industry balks at.
Service stations and quik stops claim they don’t make much from gas, especially if it is paid for by a credit card – they make money when customers make purchases from inside their convenience stores, with profits of 30 percent or more on pop, snacks and such.
Some claim that Nebraska has some of the highest state taxes in the region, and their gas prices are just a little higher than Wyoming’s. What goes on there? Others claim that our 10 cent raise can be absorbed by the wholesaler.
So where does it all shake out? That question is why we have a legislature, a Governor, organizations, lobbyists and our opinions. Put them all in a big facility, our Capitol Building, to discuss and cuss politely. This process is how we do things in Wyoming, and usually common sense prevails.