Delaware lawmakers propose gas tax increase alternatives

 (Julio Cortez/AP Photo, file)

(Julio Cortez/AP Photo, file)

State lawmakers pitched a few alternatives to the proposed ten-cent gas tax increase during the Delaware Department of Transportation’s fiscal year 2015 budget hearing in Dover.

DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt outlined the $228 million capital budget as well as the $342.1 million operating budget, which includes a one percent pay raise for employees.

In order to pay for some the proposed projects, DelDOT anticipates lawmakers to pass the proposed ten-cents per gallon gas tax increase.

Bhatt, along with Governor Jack Markell, pitched the increase back in January as a way to put more Delawareans back to work while improving state roads.   

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The increase would cost Delaware motorists about $57 annually, according to state estimates. Under the proposal, DelDOT would see a $50 million annual increase in revenue. They would match those funds by borrowing another $50 million annually for the next five years.

The state has not raised the gas tax since 1995 and Bhatt added that Delaware’s gas tax would remain significantly lower than neighboring states.

Some lawmakers say Delawareans can’t financially handle the increase.

“I’m getting emails and calls from my constituents saying ten cents a gallon is really hard, especially on lower and middle class folks,” said Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton.

Peterson suggested imposing a one-dollar per barrel tax on the oil that is transferred on the Delaware Bay.

“Those supertankers pull in and offload the oil to smaller ships to take it up the Delaware River, and for that we charge them nothing for using our Delaware Bay for the purpose,” said Peterson.

Bhatt said that they are open-minded but said that this suggestion is something they would need to talk to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources about.

Rep. Daniel Short, R-Seaford, went before the JFC to pitch another alternative to the gas tax. Short suggested transitioning DelDOT’s budget out of the Transportation Trust Fund and into the General Fund, which is where all other state agencies receive their funding. Short said the move would begin freeing up money in the Transportation Trust Fund for road projects.


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