By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
As Kentucky struggles to maintain roads and bridges in its 120 counties and faces a decrease in funding from the federal government, House Transportation Committee Chair Sal Santoro says reforms must come in the 2019 session because “Kentuckians deserve better.”
Santoro noted the 2018 session was filled with many difficult and controversial issues including comprehensive tax reform and changes to the state’s pension systems that made it difficult to take up an issue like changing the formula for how transportation funds are collected.
He said, however, that transportation funding is critical in Kentucky as roads and bridges need repair throughout the state and pointed to the fact that the state’s General Fund, where most government services are paid, and the Road Fund are separate and Kentucky’s infrastructure has been neglected as a result of a lack of changes to that fund.
The House Transportation Committee Chair explained the formula for maintaining and building infrastructure in the state is funding in large part through the gas tax and he said on average, $150 or $160 is collected per year from an individual through the gas tax in the state of Kentucky. Santoro said that while many get upset with the prices at the pump because it is something they are seeing frequently and watching fluctuate, those price changes have a huge impact on what the state’s roads and bridges look like.
“I hear complaints when people call and they say ‘potholes are here, why aren’t we fixing potholes?’ Well, (when) the price of gas went down, that means less money is going into the road formula for maintenance,” Santoro said.
The bill sponsored by Santoro during the 2018 session to increase infrastructure funding through changes to the formula would have increased the gas tax by a small amount as well as implemented some fees on electric vehicles at registration and/or purchase to ensure everyone is paying their fair share for the roads even if they aren’t paying at the pump.
Santoro says it is also critical to pass legislation to increase this type of funding because if Kentucky does not pass reforms, the state will also begin to lose even more federal transportation funding, making it even harder to fix existing Kentucky’s roads and bridges, as well as build new infrastructure.
“I just want everyone to understand that this is a consumption fee,” Santoro said. “That’s all it is. You purchase your fuel, you want to be able to say I am now going to drive on safe highways and safe bridges. If we don’t do something in order to build these roads and make these bridges safe, there will be no funding.”
Watch the full interview with Rep. Sal Santoro on the need for infrastructure funding and what it means for the gas tax in the video below: