On April 19 the Senate Transportation Committee approved a bare-bones, no-new-taxes transportation budget for 2013-15. Three days later the House Transportation Committee adopted a separate bill that would impose a 10-cent hike in the state portion of the gas tax over three years, and create or increase an array of other transportation-related fees.
The no-new-taxes nature of the transportation budget didn’t change as it sailed through the Senate (with a 46-1 vote) and the House (vote: 72-25) and on to the governor, who signed it May 20. Although the governor is still cheerleading for more transportation revenue, at least publicly, the reality is this: The Legislature can adjourn for the year without another word about transportation because we already have a new transportation budget in place.
No one would deny that our state’s transportation infrastructure would benefit from having more support than the new bare-bones transportation budget can give it. At the same time, those of us who appreciate the idea of “reforms before revenue” might feel differently about an increase in transportation funding if there was ample proof that our state transportation department is squeezing the most out of every gas-tax dollar it’s already receiving. If this year’s push for a gas-tax hike sputters to a halt, which is how it appears to be headed, the governor and his transportation secretary would be wise to advocate serious reforms to the way roads are built and maintained before anyone comes back with hat in hand.