Why we should support a gas tax increase

February 20, 2014

In June of 2010, Delaware’s 145th General Assembly approved House Bill 500 which established a task force to “thoroughly explore, examine and evaluate the resource needs for the comprehensive Capital Transportation Program.”

The task force was composed of 24 members representing the Delaware General Assembly, various state agencies and other stakeholders from the public and private sectors. I was asked to chair the task force. The task force report, which was delivered to the General Assembly, found that based upon the projected transportation needs over the next six years, that if revenues into the Transportation Trust Fund were not increased, then a 100 percent state funded capital program would not exist and that the revenues received would only cover federal matching funds, debt service and DelDOT operations. The elimination of the state capital program would have affected 65 percent of the roads in Delaware (all roads outside of municipalities, subdivision streets, etc.).

The first recommendation of the report to be addressed was Gov. Jack Markell’s directive to Secretary Bhatt of the Department of Transportation to reduce the debt service of DelDOT. Over the last three years, DelDOT has reduced the debt by $380 million.

Another recommendation of the report was to raise the gas tax. This tax or user fee was last raised in 1995 and that for each dollar of this fee put into the TTF in 1995 is only placing $0.65 into the TTF today. It is projected due to less miles being driven by individuals and the use of more efficient vehicles that the revenue from the gas tax will decrease 0.8 percent annually over the next six years.

Gov. Markel has proposed a 10-cent increase in the gas tax and in combination with $50 million in additional borrowing each year will infuse $100 million into the TTF for additional projects that will address safety of the traveling public, maintenance of the existing system and expansion of roadways to not only meet the current needs of the citizens of Delaware, but also provide for economic development that will attract new jobs that are so desperately needed in Delaware. The cost of this increase is estimated to cost the average driver only $4.78 per month.

If we do not increase the spending to meet the current needs, then Delawareans will actually realize larger increase in the cost for transportation. An American Society of Civil Engineers report entitled “Rough Road Ahead” found that a “subpar road system” costs each family in the United States $1,050 per year in additional cost for automobile repairs and other related expenses.

I urge everyone to contact their individual legislator to support the increase in the gas tax that will not only create construction jobs, but also help with the increase other jobs from expansion of existing businesses in Delaware and the attraction of new business to Delaware.

Ted C. Williams
New Castle County
Member, Council of Transportation

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