The recent article "Wyoming could be facing tough questions on highway funding this interim" addresses an important issue with misleading statements that actual figures and common sense show to be false.
The article states "...shifts in the status quo like increasing fuel efficiency, the advent of electric cars and shrinking prices on a gallon of gasoline have offset any new funding the tax may have brought". First, lower prices of gas do not reduce the tax effectiveness and the increase was 10 cents per gallon. If anything, lower gas prices encourage people to buy more gas and increase the amount of tax collected. Secondly, no mention of Wyoming's mineral excise tax which is the main source of the dwindling highway funds. Thirdly, Wyoming has yet to reach 1 percent of vehicles registering as electric cars, and owners of electric vehicles in Wyoming have paid the same amount as fuel efficient vehicles into the Highway Trust Fund via an extra annual registration fee. So no significant impact on highway funds there.
Despite the fact the impact of electric vehicles is little more than a red herring, the article goes on to state "As traditional sources of revenue like gas taxes have become ineffective in an age of electric cars... other states have begun... like Wyoming did this year, increasing the cost of registering electric vehicles that in theory are exempt from fuel taxes." This implies WY electric vehicle owners do not contribute to the Highway Trust Fund, ignoring the fee they have paid for the last four years to offset their lack of fuel purchase. This also implies that the electric vehicle fee increase is a viable solution to addressing Wyoming's $135 million shortfall. So what is the revenue increase to our Highway Fund for this "solution?" The Wyoming Department of Transport estimates that fee increase will result in $128,650/year for the state. That is less than 0.1 percent of the annual shortfall this article cites. So yes, it is quite true that Wyoming "may have to do even more in order to maintain its roads" if it hopes to raise the remaining 99.9 percent of the shortfall.
The title of the article correctly identifies a serious problem, but the text leaves readers with the impression that the Wyoming Legislature is making laws that effectively do something to address this issue. The reality is that the Legislature just passed a law that is barely a fig leaf over a massive budgetary problem. Further, it is a poorly thought out fig leaf that targets a group too small to be politically important and picks winners and losers in terms of technologies. It is articles like this that allow politicians to pretend they are addressing a problem and forsake the politically difficult decisions around systematically changing the way the Highway Fund raises revenue before it becomes a crisis.
I hope the Star-Tribune corrects this perception and in the future considers the actual numbers when treating important issues like this one.