Senate Bill No. 354
(By Senators Plymale, Kessler (Mr. President), Cann, Stollings, Fitzsimmons, Tucker and McCabe)
[Introduced February 22, 2013; referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §17-2A-8d, relating to directing the Commissioner of Highways to conduct a study on alternative revenue mechanisms for development and maintenance of state roads and highways; making legislative findings and specifying intent; requiring a study and specifying study design; authorizing pilot projects and interagency cooperation; and requiring report and recommendations by certain date.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated §17-2A-8d, to read as follows:
ARTICLE 2A. ROAD DEVELOPMENT AND MAINTENANCE FEE.
§17-2A-8d. Study of alternative revenue sources to fund state roads and highways; findings and intent; report; recommendations.
(a) The Legislature finds as follows:
(1) An efficient and effective transportation system is critical for West Virginia's economy and quality of life;
(2) Continued efficiency and effectiveness depend on a stable and reliable source of revenue to fund the transportation system's maintenance, operation, preservation and improvements;
(3) The motor vehicle fuel tax has been a fundamental means of paying for state and federal roads. Until recently, these taxes have been an adequate and stable source of revenue.
(4) A 2011 research brief prepared by the RAND Corporation’s Infrastructure, Safety and Environment Program made the following findings:
(A) Since 1980, vehicle miles traveled have doubled, while fuel consumption itself has increased by just one half. Long-range projections provided by the Energy Information Administration in 2012 on fuel consumption and vehicle miles traveled suggest that this trend will continue;
(B) Conditions in the fuel market since the year 2000 have changed consumers' tastes in the vehicle market, with a shift toward vehicles with superior fuel economy and those that rely on alternative fuels;
(C) Individual vehicle miles traveled are expected to grow faster than fuel consumption in the coming decades; therefore, alternative funding mechanisms based on alternative funding sources such as vehicle miles traveled for roads and highways will provide a more stable source of revenue;
(D) The Energy Information Administration projects that the federal fuel tax should increase by about ten percent between 2015 and 2030, growing from $36 billion to $39 billion (in 2009 dollars);
(E) If, instead, fuel taxes are replaced with an alternative funding source, such as fees based on vehicle miles traveled, in 2015 at an initially revenue-neutral rate, receipts will increase by thirty-three percent over the same period, growing from $36 billion to $47 billion; and
(F) Other states, as well as the federal government, face the same difficulty of stagnating fuel tax revenues. A number of other states have embarked on pilot projects and other efforts over the last decade to evaluate potential new systems for the assessment and collection of taxes or fees for the use of a transportation system. Such efforts have shown that new systems to assess a fee based on usage of state and local roads are technologically feasible today.
(b) Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature to establish the governance structure and lay the groundwork necessary to adopt an alternative source of revenue collection for road development and maintenance that will supplement the current system of motor vehicle fuel taxation. To this end, this section provides for a study, conducted by the Commissioner of Highways, to guide the first stages of the transition, focusing on determining the feasibility and optimal methods of implementation for a road user assessment.
(c) The study, created under subsection (b) of this section, shall authorize the Commissioner of Highways to do the following:
(1) Research and review relevant reports, data and efforts in other states and at the federal level with regard to models of assessment and methods of transitioning to an alternative system of funding West Virginia roads and highways, and analyze the research to identify issues for policy decisions in West Virginia;
(2) Make recommendations on the design for a pilot project or projects. The recommendations shall be submitted to the Legislature by January 31, 2014; and
(3) In developing recommendations, the Commissioner of Highways shall do the following:
(A) Determine and apply criteria for identifying the most promising road usage fee collection implementation options to evaluate in a pilot project;
(B) Identify uncertainties that must be resolved in order to develop a technically feasible and cost-effective system of road use fee collection; and
(C) Propose legislation that will enable the establishment and implementation of a pilot program or programs.
(d) In order to assist the Commissioner of Highways in making recommendations, the Division of Highways may participate in studies and limited pilot projects to test technical feasibility that can be accomplished within existing resources.