Average price of US gas rises 8 cents, to $2.74 a gallon

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A bill that would raise Kentucky's gas tax was filed Wednesday, the last day for new measures in the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 517 would add 10 cents per gallon to the state taxes on gasoline and other fuels, in addition to expanding fees on electric vehicles, passenger car registration renewals and specialty license plates.

"It's a good bill. It needs to be looked at," Rep. Sal Santoro, a Republican from northern Kentucky, told WDRB News on Wednesday. "It's time to do it."

Because it would raise revenue in a non-budget session of the General Assembly, the measure would need a two-thirds majority of each chamber, rather than a simply majority.

Santoro is among 12 sponsors of the legislation, which mirrors many aspects of a bill that failed to advance last year. Among those backing this session's effort is GOP house member Rep. Jerry Miller, who represents parts of Jefferson and Oldham counties.

Last year's measure would have generated more than $433 million per year once all the taxes and fees were implemented. An estimate of projected revenues from the bill introduced this week wasn't immediately provided.

Besides the fuel-tax hike, the bill would add an "electric vehicle highway user fee" of $175 that owners of those cars would pay when they register them and renew their license plates each year.

That annual fee would rise or fall based on changes to Kentucky's fuel taxes.

Among other fees, the bill also increases the annual cost of renewing the license plates of most passenger vehicles, to $22, from the current rate of $11.50, and to $15, from $9, for motorcycles.

Supporters argue that a gas tax increase is needed to help Kentucky tackle a backlog of road projects and maintenance. Lower fuel tax collections and a looming loss of federal credits next year make the situation dire, they say.

The statewide advocacy group Kentuckians for Better Transportation, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Greater Louisville Inc., the metro area's business group, are among those organizations that favor a tax increase.

Opponents, however, believe simply raising taxes is a way to avoid taking a hard look at how the state already spends its transportation dollars and diverts funds for unrelated expenses.

The conservative Americans for Prosperity’s Kentucky chapter long has opposed a gas tax increase and voiced its position even before the bill was filed, calling it a "band-aid solution to the commonwealth’s overspending problem."

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Digital Reporter

Marcus Green joined WDRB News in 2013 after 12 years as a staff writer at the Louisville Courier-Journal. He reports on transportation, development and local and state government.