State Treasurer lobbies for gas tax

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  Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 (Host) State Treasurer Jeb Spaulding says he thinks it’s critical for the Legislature to consider a major revenue bond this winter, even if Congress passes a huge federal transportation stimulus package.

 Spaulding says Vermont‘s transportation infrastructure has long term needs that will require both state and federal solutions.

 VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Spaulding is backing a plan to raise the state gas tax by five cents a gallon to help finance a major long term revenue bond to repair Vermont’s roads and bridges. The state gas tax is currently 20 cents a gallon.

Governor Jim Douglas says he opposes the plan because this isn’t the right time to raise any taxes in Vermont.

In January, the new session of Congress is expected to consider an enormous federal stimulus package that will include hundreds of billions of dollars for new transportation projects. It’s a plan that’s supported by president elect Barack Obama.

Speaking on VPRs Vermont Edition, Spaulding said the state needs to spend an additional 50 to 100 million dollars a year, for the foreseeable future, on transportation projects and he said the passage of a federal stimulus plan doesn’t replace the need for the state to develop its own approach to this problem:

(Spaulding) "It’s sort of like if you’re in a leaking boat waiting from someone to show up and bail you out you need to do some of the bailing yourself and we have the opportunity here to put in place a package that will allow us to get moving and get caught up in our bridges put people to work and it should be hopefully structured in conjunction with whatever stimulus comes from Washington."

While Transportation Secretary David Dill agrees with Spaulding’s projections to repair roads and bridges throughout Vermont, Dill disagrees with using the gas tax to finance these projects.

Dill is looking for other options to fund a state package because he says the federal stimulus plan is being designed to jump start the national economy as quickly as possible.

(Dill) "By definition that means that it’s more focused on the short term I would expect part of the ground rules are going to be that we’ve got to spend or obligate the money within 4 to 6 months although there’s been talk about having a two year piece as well but a short term the problem we’re describing with Vermont infrastructure is a long term situation that we need to address."

Dill says the Administration is considering a number of options to boost transportation spending including using surplus money from the Education Fund and transferring budget responsibility for the Vermont State Police from the Transportation Fund to the state’s General Fund.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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