Legislative task force studying ways to pay for highway projects

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) -- A legislative task force looking into alternative ways to pay for highway construction and maintenance projects has made their recommendations for action during the 2020 General Assembly.

The Mileage-Based Transportation Funding Task Force met over the past year to see if there was a better way to replenish the Road Fund than the current gas tax drivers pay at the pump.

Task Force Co-Chairman Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, says when looking at mileage-based funding, a third-party vendor as well as GPS tracking, would be used to determine what a driver would pay.

He says there were two problems involved. “First, was a privacy issue. A lot of people were concerned about privacy, using GPS to track their movements. The other thing was the third-party administrator. Oregon said 40 percent of the money they generated went to the third-party administrator. Simply, we can’t afford to give away 40 percent of our user fees.”

However, expect to see fees for electric vehicles, the owners of which currently pay nothing.

“There will be a recommendation coming forward to charge true electric cars a user fee,” said Higdon, “When they buy a new car and every year when they register that vehicle.”

He noted Tennessee charges electric car owners $200 per year and hybrid owners $100. “I don’t know what it’ll look like in Kentucky, but I do feel it’s probably what we’re headed for with electric cars.”

Higdon also hinted at a possible re-examination of the gas tax, the rate of which was set when fuel prices were much higher than they are today.

“Our crystal ball was a little murky years ago when we capped the gas tax,” he said. “It was a good deal and did what it was supposed to do. But we never thought about the price of gasoline dropping like it has. There was no protection on the amount the gas tax could drop, and it went down 6 ½ cents. That’s about $200 million a year we’re currently not collecting.”

That has had quite an effect, according to Higdon. “It’s made a difference on new roads and resurfacing, along with safety issues like guardrails and white lines on the side of the road. There are a lot of good requests, we simply can’t get to all of them. You’re always going to have more demand than you have resources.”

The 2020 General Assembly convenes in Frankfort on Jan. 7.

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