Why is the DOT Budget in a separate bill?
The problems facing the Department of Transportation are unique and serious. Dealing with the DOT budget separately through HB357 will allow the House more opportunity to discuss and debate the issues, facts, and figures specific to DOT.
I’ve heard there will be cuts to personnel and/or operations in DOT. If the gas tax was raised last year, in part, to help fund certain aspects of DOT, why the disparity from one budget to the next?
Over the last 3-4 budget cycles, there have been a number of one-time fixes and/or revenue sources that helped fund DOT. For example:
2008 – $65M Bonding of Operating Expenses
2010 – $46M Registration Surcharge (repealed in 2011)
$50M I-95 Transfer to Turnpikes
2012 – $52M I-95 Transfer to Turnpikes
2014 – $29M I-95 Transfer to Turnpikes
These one-time fixes along with the reduction of federal funding have resulted in what is estimated to be an $88.2 million deficit, if no new revenue source is identified or enacted. $88.2 million represents a reduction of over 40%.
Despite the 4 cent per gallon gas tax increase enacted in 2014 (SB367), revenue from the increase will not cover the large deficit. In fact, the majority of revenue from the increase is dedicated to specific items including resurfacing, municipal grants and I-93. In addition, overall revenue is expected to trend downward as vehicles become more efficient.
Is the current legislature to blame?
No. Actions (or inaction) by prior legislatures and administrations are the real culprit. The shell games and reliance on one-time revenue that has happened over the last 10 years have lead us to this situation. The chickens have come home to roost.
The proposal included in HB357 reflects a budget that lives within our current means, without raising the gas tax or registration fees. As a result, there is a stark reduction in funds available for our transportation infrastructure.
Will there be alternative solutions to this “live within our means” budget?
As with any budget bill, alternatives may be proposed in the form of floor amendments to HB357.
Should this budget be viewed as a negative reflection on DOT employees or management?
No. The vast majority of DOT employees and management are hardworking people who provide a great service to our state. The proposal in HB357 is in no way a suggestion that the House Finance Committee or the House of Representatives has a negative opinion of any individual employee or agency.