CHEYENNE -- The Senate gave tentative approval Tuesday to a bill to raise the state fuel tax by ten cents per gallon to provide a permanent source of revenue for the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
The bill would raise $72 million in 2014, including $47 million for WYDOT, $16 million for county roads, $6.7 million for city streets, and $1.2 million for state parks.
The proposal, House Bill 69, which previously passed the House, received a favorable voice vote on the Senate floor Tuesday.
It will be debated two more times this week.
The fuels tax hasn't been increased since 1998.
The 10-cent increase is expected to cost a Wyoming family an extra $114 per year.
Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, the bill's floor manager, said it is doubtful that Wyoming motorists will see more than a nickel increase in the price of gas at the pump. This is because petroleum marketers blend the gas taxes on a regional basis.
"Less than half of this will ever make it to the consumer," Von Flatern said. He also said that 53 percent of the tax will be paid by non-residents.
Flatern, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs, was a member of the super committee that recommended the higher gas tax along with an increase in motor registration fees after studying other options, including tolling, last summer and fall.
The Joint Interim Revenue Committee was the other part of the super committee.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) has estimated it will need about $135 million a year to maintain the highway system as it is now.
Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, tried to amend the bill to substitute a 30-cent tax on large-nozzle diesel pumps used by trucks.
He said the big highway maintenance and repair problems are on Interstate 80 and are caused by the pounding by big trucks. A higher gas tax, Hicks said, would be a hardship on his constituents in hamlets like Rock River and Elk Mountain who must drive 80 miles or more round trip to get groceries and see a doctor.
The diesel tax was supported by some senators, including Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, who said it introduces fairness into the system.
But Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, said it is not right to say users of I-80 should pay to fix all state highways, given that there are two other interstates and numerous roads in the state.
"It's a system, folks. It isn't I-80 gobbling up everything," Schiffer said.
Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said the Senate should respect the recommendation of the super committee.
So did Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper. "This amendment says we don't want our cars to pay any more," Landen said. The truckers, he added, pay higher motor registration fees.
Hicks' amendment failed on a 10-19 standing vote.