TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas lawmakers are discussing raising the state’s gas tax and implementing new fees as a way to help fund highway improvements.
A state task force finalized recommendations Thursday for a long-term transportation plan as Kansas prepares to replace T-WORKS, a 10-year, $8 billion program that began in 2010. The recommendations call for transportation funding through sales taxes, a fee on electric vehicles and raising the gas tax.
State lawmakers and the Kansas Department of Transportation will consider the recommendations as they develop a new transportation program in the coming year, the Wichita Eagle reported.
The recommendations didn’t specify how much the gas tax should be increased. But Democratic Sen. Tom Hawk has voiced support for raising the gas tax by 5 cents, which could produce about $90 million a year.
“A gas tax means that people who are using the roads pay for them, and I think user fees are the fairest form of taxation we have,” Hawk said.
Kansas charges 24.03 cents per gallon on gas, one of the lower tax rates in the U.S. Pennsylvania is the highest-taxed state at 58.7 cents per gallon, while Alaska is the lowest with 14.65 cents per gallon, according to the Tax Foundation.
An annual fee for electric vehicle owners would generate money from drivers who wouldn’t have to pay taxes on gasoline purchases. But opponents are concerned that such a fee would eliminate the incentive for drivers to buy more environmentally friendly cars.
Charging electric vehicle owners a $200 per vehicle annual fee could bring in about $40 million a year by 2030. But the fee would generate only about $250,000 a year immediately because the number of electric vehicles is anticipated to grow over time, according to Julie Lorenz, a consultant who worked with the task force.
Republican Rep. J.R. Claeys expressed doubt that lawmakers would support raising the tax or imposing a large fee.
“I don’t think it gets through the Legislature,” Claeys said.
The task force’s report and recommendations are due to the Legislature by the end of January.