gas prices

PHOENIX — The new head of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure wants a dime a gallon increase in the state gasoline tax.

But he’s not sure voters are willing to go along.

Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, pointed out that the last time Arizona hiked its gas tax was in 1991. Since then it has remained at 18 cents a gallon.

“And a dollar of tax revenue then is worth about 47 cents today,’’ he said. “So we’re not even collecting enough tax to maintain our roads.’’

So Campbell figures it’s time to revisit the issue.

He has no illusion that his colleagues would approve such a sharp hike in gasoline taxes. And it’s not just a matter of politics: It takes a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate to hike tax rates.

But Campbell needs just a simple majority to put the issue on the 2018 ballot. And he figures he’d better start selling the issue now to get even that margin.

“The question is, do we have enough willpower to tax ourselves a reasonable amount — reasonable — to help us with our road conditions,’’ he said.

It’s not just a question of a flat tax rate.

Campbell noted there are an increasing number of vehicles on the road that use no gasoline or diesel fuel at all. And all vehicles, not just hybrids, are getting much better gas mileage.

Consider: In 2005 the state Department of Transportation reports that motorists logged more than 163 million miles a day on Arizona roads. A decade later it topped 178 million miles.

Yet the amount of gasoline sold in 2015 is virtually identical to what it was in 2005.

“We have got to get revenue into our transportation system to start dealing with these highway needs that we have,’’ Campbell said.

And there are a lot.

In a report released last month, a special task force set up by the legislature pegged Arizona’s near-term funding needs at $20 billion. And that’s just for building, widening and maintaining freeways, with another $40 billion for other road projects.

By contrast ADOT predicts the Highway User Revenue Fund will add just $1.4 billion this year. And that includes not only fuel taxes but also vehicle license fees and registration charges.

Hiking the gas tax by a dime might bring in another $285 million.

But Campbell has another idea he is crafting beyond the gas tax hike in HCR 2011: a $30 annual fee that motorists would pay every time they buy insurance for their cars and trucks.

At the very least, he said, that could raise about $115 million a year. More to the point, it would eliminate what has become a practice of funding the Department of Public Safety by raiding HURF dollars that would otherwise be spent on road construction and maintenance.

Gov. Doug Ducey proposes just such a shift from HURF to balance this coming year’s budget.

And it would do something else. Campbell figures it would impose at least some financial burden for using state roads on all vehicles, regardless of how much -- or how little -- gasoline they use.

But in proposing to take the issue to the statewide ballot, Campbell faces a different hurdle.

Residents of Maricopa and Pima counties already have voted to hike sales taxes to take care of their own local road construction needs. That raises the question of whether urban voters, who make up three-fourths of the state, would see any advantage in hiking gasoline taxes, too.

“I don’t really have an answer for you politically,’’ Campbell said. But he said he at least needs to start the discussion.

Campbell also expressed some frustration at having to fight this battle without help from the state’s top elected official.

“The governor has got to show leadership here,’’ he complained.

But Campbell should not count on any backing from Ducey in his quest. Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said his boss remains opposed to any new or increased taxes in any form, including a gas tax increase.

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(12) comments

BLAZO

A Democrat wouldn't be satisfied with a dime. How 'bout a dollar! Even with that they'd be looking for more in a year or so.

Time To Speak

Simple charge extra for lic plates for partial and full electric vehicles! how hard is this to figure out, also why charge a fee on insurance since some dont have insurance if you are going to add a fee add it to the lic plate fees.

Triple J

Good lord more taxes on top of more taxes that tax our taxes! Oh wait, plus an additional "annual fee" when we renew insurance?!? Well there goes any extra money the minimum wage earners thought they were going to be getting haha

19717

How about a gas hike on those trucks who tear up our roads

tonyb2004

they pay extra gas tax..I believe it's .28 plus they pay tariffs in every state they drive in.
Go ahead..make everything cost more..add some additional costs to the $15 per hr inflation coming our way.

mike floyd

biggest problem is if they get the money they usually find another "need" for it. this is true of all levels, from school district to city , state to federal.

Bonhomme Richard

"O" no all the spending seems to go to the two big cities, the rest of the state suck lemons.

hvnfun3

No this is true republican, cut taxes on the rich, run out of money and then come up with new taxes that overly burden the poor or middle class. My properties taxes went up due this type of thinking.

tonyb2004

Just wait until the tax with the bond and override appears...you think the tax went up..just wait.

xrilander

Typical Republican idea. Stick it to the poor instead of a tax hike on the rich. When are people going to wake up and quit electing these idiots!

tonyb2004

Taxes are usually a Democrats idea..this guy needs to be fired come next election...

tonyb2004

NO MORE TAXES PERIOD..

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