JACKSON, Wyo. — Lawmakers for years have toyed with the notion of charging to use Interstate 80 as a way to generate revenue for an underfunded transportation department. The effort came close this time, but pulled up short of introduction on a 11-18 vote.
The vote was closer than the final role call would suggest. Several legislators changed their vote to be on the record opposed to Senate File 6 after an initial head count showed it would fail by 1 vote, with a two-thirds majority needed for introduction.
Several factors led to an I-80 toll being almost palatable in 2020. For one, the Wyoming Department of Transportation is facing unprecedented shortfalls in funding due mainly to backlogged maintenance of state highways and bridges. Unless fuel taxes are raised—and that is also up for consideration—alternative revenue streams for WYDOT need to be found.
Also, Republicans are not necessarily knee-jerk opposed to a tariff on the state’s busiest highway—especially some of those in counties bordering the interstate. Traditionally, legislators feel the urge to protect potential commerce in their respective jurisdictions that might be negatively affected by any notion of lessened traffic flowing through their offramps.
Tolls on Interstate 80 were staunchly opposed by trucking industry interests, who said they preferred a fuel tax hike before tolls.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) also lobbied against SF06, claiming 63 percent of its Wyoming membership opposed tolling portions I-80 for future highway construction and maintenance. That group also plans to fight a plan to raise the state’s gas tax to 27 cents per gallon.
“Too much is going right for small businesses across America right now,” said NFIB Wyoming director Tony Gagliardi.
Senators who switched their vote once the writing was on the wall were Brian Boner, Ogden Driskill, Affie Ellis, Dave Kinskey, Bill Landen, Glenn Moniz, and Stephen Pappas.
Ayes: Anderson-R, Anselmi-Dalton-D, Baldwin-R, Case-R, Gierau-D, Kost-R, Rothfuss-D, Schuler-R, Scott-R, Von Flatern-R, Wasserburger-R
Nays: Bebout-R, Biteman-R, Boner-R, Bouchard-R, Coe-R, Dockstader-D, Driskill-D, Ellis-D, Hicks-R, Hutchings-R, James-R, Kinskey-R, Landen-R, Moniz-R, Nethercott-R, Pappas-R, Perkins-R, Steinmetz-R
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