Senate Bill 115, doubling the tax on gasoline for motorists, passed the Senate today 12-5, with Republicans and Democrats lining up on each side of the question.
Voting yes were Senators Tom Begich, Click Bishop, John Coghill, Cathy Giessel, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Lyman Hoffman, Jesse Kiehl, Peter Micciche, Donny Olson, Josh Ravak, Gary Stevens and Natasha Von Imhof.
Against the measure were Mat-Su Valley Senators Shelley Hughes, Lora Reinbold, Mike Shower and David Wilson, all Republicans. They were joined by Anchorage Democrat Bill Wielechowski. Valley residents who commute to Anchorage will be particularly impacted by the tax, since many people fill up their tanks more than twice a week to make the trek from Palmer-Wasilla to jobs in Anchorage.
Alaska’s gas tax is 8 cents per gallon, which is the lowest in the nation. The new tax would increase it to 16 cents per gallon, which would be an additional $1.20 on 15 gallons of gas.
SB 115 now goes to the House. If passed, there’s no guarantee that Gov. Mike Dunleavy would not veto the tax hike, which would raise nearly $34 million per year.
There’s also no guarantee the extra millions would be used for road repair. The Alaska Constitution prohibits dedicated funds, in spite of the promises made by Sen. Click Bishop, the bill’s sponsor, that the funds would be used specifically for filling potholes and repairing other road liabilities.
Sen. Micciche of Kenai, a conservative Republican, said he would wait to see what the House does with the bill before he decides whether to support it in its final form, but he considers it a conservative solution and a user fee: “…the more you drive, the more you pay. The increase will result in approximately $50 per year for a family in a large vehicle that drives 15,000 miles per year,” he said.
The tax would also be paid for by tourists who travel Alaska’s roads in large recreational vehicles, and by commercial vehicles. Some trucking companies have favored the bill because the condition of some of Alaska’s roads is causing increased maintenance.
In addition to the tax increase, fees on hybrid and electric vehicles would increase. Electric vehicle owners would pay a $100 biennial registration fee of $100, the owner of a plug-in hybrid would pay $50.