Washington’s Roadways Depend on Declining Gas Tax Revenue
Motor fuel tax revenue, which accounts for the largest share of state transportation funding (about 46 percent in the 2011/2013 biennium), is declining.
Without a revenue stream that can defend current and future needs for maintenance and operations, preservation, safety improvements, and congestion-relief projects for state highways and ferries, the quality of Washington’s transportation system will decline.
Between 2007 and 2023, Washington State fuel tax revenues are projected to fall by more than $5 billion.
With the exception of tolls and ferry fares, transportation tax and fee rates are set by state law and require legislative action.
The 18th amendment, approved in 1944, requires motor vehicle fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees to be used exclusively for highway purposes. The Legislature has imposed additional restriction on the use of most transportation revenue.
Increased Fuel Efficiency Leads to Lower Motor Fuel Tax Collection
Fuel economy will likely continue to improve under the federal government’s policy goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The U.S. Department of Transportation and EPA are implementing the first phase of these standards, which already improved fuel economy in 2010, and will raise fuel efficiency from 22.6 mpg (2010) to 35.5 mpg by 2016.
Improved fuel efficiency reduces air pollution, CO2 emissions, our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and has the potential for creating new jobs around emerging technologies. It will also, however, continue to decrease state revenue from motor fuel taxes.