Fuel tax increases: Yes, no and maybe

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Washington’s governor has signed a fuel tax increase of 9.5 cents per gallon, to be phased in during the next four years.

Minnesota’s governor, on the other hand, has vetoed a fuel tax increase of 10 cents per gallon.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma voters will decide in a special election the fate of a fuel tax increase of 8 cents per gallon for diesel and 5 cents per gallon for gasoline.

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, signed an $8.5 billion state transportation budget that increases the tax from 28 cents per gallon. Each July, the tax will increase: 3 cents the first year, 3 cents the second year, 2 cents the third year and 1.5 cents the fourth year.

The measure was approved 54-43 in the House and 26-22 in the Senate. Along with new vehicle weight fees and driver’s licenses fees, the tax increase is expected to fund $8.5 billion in transportation improvements in the next 16 years.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican sometimes mentioned as a 2008 presidential candidate, vetoed a bill that would have added a dime to the state’s current tax of 20 cents per gallon. The measure would have generated nearly $8 billion in transportation improvements in the next 10 years. The Senate had approved the bill 36-31 and the House 72-61.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimates that road projects will face an annual $1 billion shortfall every year beginning in 2007.

A constitutional amendment slated for the November 2006 ballot is unaffected by the veto. That amendment would permanently dedicate all Minnesota motor vehicle sales taxes to transportation, a move supported by the Minnesota Trucking Association.

Oklahoma voters will decide in a Sept. 13 special election whether to raise that state’s fuel taxes. Currently, Oklahoma taxes diesel at 14 cents per gallon and gasoline at 17 cents per gallon.