Washington ranks 21st in the country in the percentage of road
funds raised through user fees. User fees are gas taxes, tolls and
license fees, stuff you pay if you’re driving the roads.
The Tax Foundation, which derived the information from 2011 numbers, thinks most transportation funding should come from user fees. Funding it with general revenue makes roads “free,” causing them to become overused and congested.
I don’t have a problem with user fees, but I have a hard time
grasping that statement.
Nearly half of Washington’s state and local road spending — 48.9 percent — comes from the three categories. Most (29.8 percent) derives from taxes at the gas pump, followed by 12.4 percent from license fees and 6.7 percent via tolls. Though the percentage is relatively small, Washington ranks 14th in road funds raised through tolls. First is Delaware at 48.1 percent, followed by New Jersey (32.8) and New York (29.1). Tennessee has none.
Washington seems certain to grow that number. Though tolls are now only collected on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Highway 167 hot lanes and 520 floating bridge, the state is studying them for a handful of other places. Fortunately, none of them are on this side of the water. We do pay about 70 percent of ferry operating costs, which I would consider in the same category.
Washington also ranks 14th in state fuel taxes, generating 29.8 percent of its road funds from them. That would take a leap if the Legislature passes a transportation revenue package with a 10- or 11-cent increase it’s been kicking around.
Massachusetts is first at 43.4 percent, Alaska last at 2.3 percent.
Washington ranks 30th in percentage of road funds from license taxes, at 12.4 percent. You’d think that fell off the table in 1999 when the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax was cut to $30, and has been inching its way back up since then.
At the top is Hawaii at 46.4 percent; West Virginia is at the other extreme, at 0.3 percent.
Combine all three, and Delaware leads the way at 78.6 percent, followed by Hawaii (77.3) and Florida (68.8). Bringing up the rear are Alaska (10.5), South Dakota (21.5) and Wyoming (24.5). Nationwide, the rate was 50.4 percent, about the same as Washington.
The Tax Foundation, which calls itself a nonpartisan tax research group but has been described as pro-business and conservative-leaning, says subsidizing road spending from general revenues creates pressure to increase income or sales taxes, which isn’t fair to non-users and undermines economic growth for the state.