The top state House lawmaker on transportation issues has introduced a new bill to change how much customers pay in taxes at the pump. It’s at least the fourth proposal in as many months.
North Carolina lawmakers have called upgrades to roads and bridges a priority this legislative session, but the gas tax—which pays for the bulk of the state’s transportation department—was set to plummet along with the recent drop in gas prices. To catch it, House and Senate lawmakers agreed to a compromise: freezing the tax at 36 cents per gallon for the year.
“It was on a natural trajectory to bottom out at 30,” says Rep. John Torbett, chairman of the House transportation committee and sponsor of a new plan. “I thought, the most up front and fairest thing for the public is to let it do its natural course.”
Torbett’s bill would set the gas tax at 30 cents a gallon until 2017, when it could increase or decrease under a new, less volatile formula.
“But knowing we couldn’t do that and have a loss of revenue, we had to look at adjusting,” says Torbett.
To make-up the lost transportation revenue, the bill would instead raise DMV fees, including upping driver’s licenses, registrations, and other document fees by a third, as well as raising car rental and highway use taxes. Torbett says it would give the transportation department an extra half billion dollars, although the General Assembly’s non-partisan budget office has yet to officially score it.