Several Disapointing Proposals for Funding Roads
Two years ago, Kentuckians for Better Transportation asked the following perplexing question about the future of transportation funding in Kentucky:
And so, it is crystal clear: the "plug-ins" are coming. What remains unclear is this: how are they going to pay their fair share for the use of the city streets, county roads, and the highway system?
The traditional system of road financing is that gas tax revenues and titling fees go to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and basically create its budget, combined with federal road funds that largely originate from federal gas taxes. At the time we mused:
While there will be no shortage of gasoline consumers in the immediate future, we will face an increasing number of drivers of vehicles that aren't paying for the roads they drive on through this traditional system. And we may have to completely rethink transportation funding in this country.
We feel a fair and equitable system allows citizens to pay for what they use. Which is why we do not think the Kentuckians for Better Transportation proposal makes any good sense.
Kentuckians for Better Transportation, whose 240 members include local governments, road contractors and other businesses, wants the General Assembly to consider adding a fee to annual auto registrations for electric cars and other vehicles that run on fuels other than gasoline.
Stan Lampe, president of KBT, said the fee probably would be $100 to $150.
Placing a fee on the Kentucky owners of a particular type of vehicle has little relationship to the amount of road use in which that owner participates. In fact, a preset fee would only serve as a disincentive to purchase that type of vehicle. Additionally, having the state of Kentucky levy a fee means that only Kentucky citizens are burdened to support roads in a state at the crossroads of our nation. The KBT fee proposal is not a fair assessment for use.
Rep. Hubie Collins, the Chair of the House Transportation Committee, also rejected the idea.
House Transportation Committee chairman Hubert Collins, D-Wittensville, said every state would have to face this issue.
"That's why I think federal legislation is needed," he said. "I would hate to see every state go with its own user fee for next-generation vehicles. You'd get a hodgepodge of fees across the nation. I also am concerned that if Kentucky adopted such a user fee on its own, we might run people out of the state."
Unfortunately, Collins' proposal for more federal control of our transportation funding isn't a good proposal either.
A better solution would be transparent, keep the funding in the state and be tied fairly directly to road usage without requiring any tracking of movement. That may be a tall order.