On the final day to approve bills in the chamber, Senators passed out Senate Bill 555. The bill adds a trigger to increase the state’s gasoline tax by 3 cents when the wholesale price of a gallon drops below $2, but also generates dollars for the state road fund through increased taxes and fees.
The bill made its first appearance in a House Finance Subcommittee Friday.
There were seven members on the subcommittee. Initially, the bill only included the gasoline tax increase, but before leaving the Senate it was amended. Senators included increases to Division of Motor Vehicle fees and an increase to the tax on purchasing a vehicle.
House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson says most of the new revenue would be committed to road maintenance and construction projects.
“Collectively, all of these, so called revenue measures would generate, according to numbers, about $300 million dollars and go into roads,” Nelson said.
All seven members in the House Finance Subcommittee expressed concern with the bill, including Delegate Carol Miller, a Republican from Cabell County.
“I started reading this bill [Thursday] night, at approximately 7:30 p.m., and the more I read, the more I circled, the more I underlined, the more I flagged, and it just went times three, times eight, times negative one percent, up one percent, and, I mean, I stopped flagging after about fifteen, and I just think that there’s too much in this bill to be, without us really understanding the true dollar amount of how many fees we’re gonna put on people,” Miller said.
The subcommittee did vote to move the bill to the full committee, but suggested Chairman Nelson collect more information about the impact of the provisions before putting it to a vote.
“I think any revenue measure is gonna have a word of caution with it," House Finance Chairman Nelson said, "rightfully so in our tough times, but at the same time, we have a big need as it relates to road maintenance and road construction, and so we’ve got to put everything on the table, and I think that’s what we have in front of us. The reason for the subcommittee is to give it a little extra time, then they can report back to the big committee so that we aren’t rushed into certain decisions.”
Nelson anticipates the full Finance Committee will take up Senate Bill 555 Monday.