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Transportation Funding in Utah

February 5, 2014

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Our state plays a critical role in building, maintaining and repairing roads and bridges. This is a difficult task that requires enormous funding and planning. Many are unaware of how the state receives and uses these funds. Utah’s constitution specifies that proceeds of “any tax, fee and other charges relating to the operation of vehicles on public highways must be used highway purposes”.

The revenue the state collects from taxes on fuel and fees, such as vehicle registration, is all directed towards highway purposes. Half of the revenue for the transportation fund comes from the motor fuel tax. The last gas tax increase was 5.5 cents in 1997.

Every penny of the current 24.5 cent per gallon gas tax generated $10.3 million in state revenues. But the money we collect has 40% less buying power today than it did in 1997. The state also receives transportation funds from the federal government.

In 2013, the federal government appropriated $309.7 million to Utah to improve the National Highway System. The federal government also worked with our state to fund the development of the UTA system.

These funds are used for highway purposes determined by the priorities of the Transportation Commission. About 70% of the funds are given to the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and are used as dictated by the state legislature.

The other 30% goes to various cities and counties according to their transportation needs. Before these funds are distributed, a special fund is set aside for highway administration and law enforcement. These funds are carefully distributed to ensure they are used for intended purpose of maintaining our transportation system.

A growing problem is the large decreases in transportation revenue coupled with large increases in highway usage. From 1976 to 2012, we have seen a 105% increase in the total gallons of fuel purchased in Utah and a 206% increase in vehicle miles traveled.

The vehicles we use today are more efficient, however, this has created a dilemma in which gas tax revenues are falling and road usage is increasing. The status quo is not sustainable and we must find a different way to fund our transportation system.

Some suggest we increase or restructure vehicle registration fees based on vehicle weight. Others recommend we introduce a “miles-traveled” user fee for the highway system. During this legislative session, I welcome your input on this important issue.

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From → 2013 Interim

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