West Virginia Becomes the Seventh State to Hike Gas Taxes, But Not by Much

Democratic Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation to increase its 32.2 cent state gas tax by about 3.5 cents per gallon and add substantial hybrid and EV fees. He also signed legislation to increase and expand road and bridge tolling.
July 2, 2017, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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A June 14 post, "Odd Years are Good for Hiking State Gas Taxes," noted that California, Indiana, Montana, South Carolina (overriding a governor's veto), Tennessee, and Utah (more of an adjustment), had already hiked gases, and suggested other states might follow. The Mountain State came through, though it may also be the last state to increase its gas tax this year.

Senate Bill 1006 affects the wholesale gas tax, so it's not a direct cents-per-gallon addition, unlike most conventional gas tax increases. "The increase averages out to about 3.5 cents more per gallon," reports Lacie Pierson for The Herald-Dispatch. The tax hike takes effect July 1. In addition:

The bill also allows for a variety of DMV fees to increase, including those on titles, registration and inspection stickers. For example, the registration fee will increase from $28.50 to $50 per year, and the cost of an inspection sticker will go from $5 to $10 beginning July 1.

The privilege tax [on buying a motor vehicle] will go from 5 percent of the total cost of purchasing a vehicle to 6 percent of the cost.

Additionally, the bill increases registration fees for eco-friendly vehicles, with lawmakers reasoning that hybrid vehicles still create wear and tear on the state's roads even if they aren't fueled by gasoline: Owners of vehicles fueled only by hydrogen, natural gas or electricity [EV Fees] will pay $200 per year in registration fees, and owners of vehicles fueled by a combination of electricity and gasoline will pay $100.

Tolling legislation

"Another roads bill, Senate Bill 1003, which increases toll prices and tolling authority, was approved by lawmakers last week," adds Pierson. Justice signed the bill on Tuesday, June 27.

The bill expands "the tolling capacity of the West Virginia Parkways Authority" and also "allows for tolling on new roads, new bridges or existing roads that are widened," reports MetroNews. "Collected funds will go toward issuing new road building bonds.

Gov. Justice's office touted the 'sweetener' in the tolling legislation: 

The bill establishes a one-time annual user fee for West Virginia drivers to ride for FREE through the WV Turnpike tolls. SB 1003 will protect a vital source of road money— currently, 76% of the Turnpike toll revenue is from out-of-state drivers. 

According to The Associated Press, the one-time fee is $25. An E-ZPass toll transponder is required to use the toll lanes.

Referendum to approve bonding for road and bridge construction

SB 1003 and SB 1006 "are the first step[s] in Justice's bigger plan, which includes calling a special election to allow West Virginians to authorize the sale of up to $1.6 billion in bonds for roads and bridge construction projects throughout the state," adds Pierson. 

The legislature set the date of Oct. 7 to hold the special election, also called a referendum in West Virginia, to support about $3 billion in road and bridge repair and construction, according to AP.

Unlike some other states that have pursued measures to increase transportation funding, all of the West Virginia funding options: the tax and fee increases and additions, and the tolls, are user fees paid by motorists, though some are more direct than others.

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Published on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in The Herald-Dispatch
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