Guest opinion: Safer Wyoming roads at less-than-expected cost to motorists

2014-08-06T00:00:00Z Guest opinion: Safer Wyoming roads at less-than-expected cost to motoristsBy CHRIS BROWN The Billings Gazette
August 06, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Wyoming’s transportation system, particularly its highways, plays a vital role in the overall safety and health of our residents and our state’s economy.

One of the most highly debated issues of the 2013 Wyoming legislative session focused on how to make Wyoming’s roads safer while keeping taxes low. At the time our state’s fuel tax was 14 cents per gallon, the second lowest in the nation and at least 8 cents lower than every one of our surrounding states. It had not been raised since 1998.

A broad-based coalition representing many of Wyoming’s industries supported a fuel tax increase of 10 cents per gallon as one solution to help repair and maintain our aging transportation system. The legislature passed the bill and the governor signed it into law, which went into effect on July 1, 2013.

Travel up 55%

Wyoming’s roads, bridges and transport system require $135 million a year to preserve them in their current condition. Vehicle travel is projected to increase 55 percent and 82 percent of Wyoming’s roads will decay to poor condition by 2030 if nothing is done.

Ignoring the problem would put those traveling our roads, including our children, in significant danger. While the increase only generates a portion of the overall investment needed to fully maintain our transportation infrastructure, increasing the fuel tax was (and still is) one of the most efficient components towards an overall solution.

What effect did this increase have on Wyoming residents?

At first blush, the average consumer would think that a 10 cent per gallon tax increase would mean they are paying 10 cents more per gallon. A vocal minority using this issue for political posture would have you believe this. That is simply not true. Now that Wyoming is in relative tax parity with surrounding states, the refineries and terminal racks are no longer enjoying a market perspective of value influenced by a disproportionately low fuel tax.

While Wyoming benefits significantly from the additional taxes in the form of highway improvements, safety and other nuances, much tighter wholesale markets have all but absorbed the additional 10 cent per gallon fuel tax. Wyoming refiners, terminal racks and wholesale distributors do not compete only in Wyoming and those cross-border influences keep a constant downward pressure on pricing that Wyoming petroleum retailers and consumers did not previously enjoy.

Visitors pay 52% of tax

Wyoming has invested billions of dollars into our roads and the safety of our families and growth of our state economy depend on their timely maintenance. Wyoming’s critical transportation system is benefiting by the additional revenue generated without any increase in retail prices.

Add to this the fact that 52 percent of all Wyoming fuel taxes are paid by out-of-state fuel purchasers and you can clearly see the wisdom of Gov. Matt Mead and the Wyoming legislature who made the tough decision to raise our gas taxes for the safety and well being of everyone traveling Wyoming’s roads.

Chris Brown, of Cheyenne, is executive director Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association and the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition. He wrote this on behalf of the Coalition to Save Wyoming's Roads.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Billings Gazette

Popular Stories

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses