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Wyo. Committee Advances Fuel Tax Increase Proposal

By BEN NEARY

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) â¿¿ Proclaiming that Wyoming needs to find a long-term, predictable source of highway funding, a legislative committee on Monday advanced a bill that would raise fuel taxes.

The House Revenue Committee voted 7-to-2 Monday morning to recommend approval of a bill to hike fuel taxes by a dime, from 14 cents to 24 cents a gallon on gasoline. The bill now advances to the House.

The committee vote came after two hours of testimony, much of it from industry and local government officials who said that although nobody likes paying higher taxes, they believe the time has come for the state to bite the bullet on highway funding.

"A Band-Aid fix is really what the state has been doing over the past five or six biennial budgets," said Roy Cohee, whose family runs an oilfield trucking business in Casper.

Cohee, a former Wyoming house speaker, said his business employs about 60 people and logs about 2 million miles a year delivering drilling and mining equipment. "The roads could be crumbling years from now if a reasonable $70 to $80 million isn't put into them now," he said.

Gov. Matt Mead is pushing the tax increase, which would raise more than $70 million a year for state and local road projects. Mead has emphasized that out-of-state motorists would foot much of the bill for maintaining the state's highway system.

Wyoming has put hundreds of millions of dollars from the state's general fund into subsidizing highways over the past decade. Mead has said that approach has hampered the transportation department's ability to plan projects because it's never certain how much funding it will have in the future.

Brett Moline, with the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, said his members oppose increasing the fuel tax. "I have a concern, as my members do, that this is going to cause an increase in the price of fuel at the pump," he said.

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