LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky legislators filed a bill Monday to raise the state’s gas tax, add extra fees to electric and gasoline-fueled vehicles and change the formula that sends road funds to cities and counties.
The bill proposes a nearly 9 cent-per gallon increase for most drivers, among a raft of other measures meant to create more revenue for the state’s largely stagnant road fund. If approved, Kentucky’s gas tax would be 34.6 cents per gallon, up from the current rate of 26 cents.
Some local drivers had mixed feelings about the proposal.
Alan Flock, of Bullitt County, said he already tries to save money on gas whenever possible. He was cashing in on rewards points at Speedway on Tuesday to get a 50 cent per gallon discount.
"Kentucky loves to tax as much as they can whenever they can," Flock said.
But motorist Jacob Hill said he wouldn't mind paying a little more in gas to avoid hitting rough spots on his drive from Bardstown.
"(The tax) will impact a certain number of people, but I think the overall goal within it means a lot as well," Hill said. "Fixing the roads is something that's pretty necessary."
House Bill 580, sponsored by Republican Rep. Sal Santoro and Democratic Reps. John Sims Jr. and Russ Meyer, was submitted Monday, the final day for new bills in the House of Representatives. Similar attempts failed to advance during the previous two legislative sessions.
The bill’s introduction has been complicated by a dispute between Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, and the GOP-controlled Senate, which passed a measure this month that would limit the governor’s ability to choose a Transportation Secretary.
Speaking in Frankfort Tuesday morning, Beshear once again criticized that measure, Senate Bill 4, even as he acknowledged that more dollars are needed for Kentucky’s roads.
“We have a challenge in our Transportation Cabinet budget needing more funds just for maintenance,” he said. “The environment to get it passed this session is difficult.”
Prominent interest groups, including the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, have pushed for a gas tax bill that includes other funding mechanisms. Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts said her organization is reviewing the bill.
"We are happy to see the top priority of the business community move forward this legislative session and plan to spend the rest of session working with a broad coalition to secure additional infrastructure funding," she said.
Besides a tax increase for drivers of personal vehicles, House Bill 580 calls for an additional levy of up to 7.2 cents on commercial trucks with two or more axles, such as tractor trailers. All the extra taxes would be adjusted annually based on a federal construction index.
The bill also seeks annual fees for electric vehicles. Those drivers would pay $200 when they first register their cars and $200 when renew their license plates each year. The fees would rise or drop by $1 for every increase or decrease in the fuel taxes of two-tenths of 1 cent.
Drivers of traditional, gasoline-powered cars and trucks also would be assessed a “highway preservation fee” when they initially register and during their annual renewals. Those sliding scale fees are tied to fuel efficiency.
A driver whose car gets up to 19 mpg, for example, would pay $5 annually, while fees of up to $40 would be assessed on owners of cars that get 40 mpg or more.
The bill also doubles current registration fees for most cars, pickup trucks and passenger vans from $11.50 to $22, and raises motorcycle registration costs to $15, up from $9. Heavy commercial trucks, farm trucks, school buses, church buses and tow trucks also would pay $22 to register, up from $11.50.
RVs and campers would pay more as well, from $20 per year to $30.
And the bill adds an extra fee of $10 to the registration of any vehicle that is isn’t renewed within 30 days of its expiration date.
It also raises fees for specialty license plates, including those recognizing former prisoners of war; Pearl Harbor survivors; Purple Heart recipients; retired military members; disabled drivers; firefighters and Fraternal Order of Police members.
State lawmakers’ plates would have higher fees, as would members of Congress.
House Bill 580 also creates a “multimodal transportation fund” that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet would administer, taking in federal funds and other state funds, gifts and grants for transit programs, rail crossing safety work, riverport improvements and airport investments.
In a change also agreed to by associations representing Kentucky’s cities and counties, the bill provides a new revenue-sharing split for gas tax proceeds that exceed $825 million a year.
Lawrence Smith and Sara Sidery contributed to this story.