Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/14/1996 01:42 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 49 DEDICATED HIGHWAY FUND Number 066 REPRESENTATIVE JEANETTE JAMES, sponsor of CSHJR 49(STA), said it was developed narrowly, utilizing state taxes on fuel used for the propulsion of motor vehicles, allowing the legislature to appropriate money from this fund only for the maintenance of roads and highways. She referred to other bills, involving proposals for highway maintenance funds, that failed due, in part, to the complexity of those bills. Those bills utilized revenues from state license and fees for the registration, operation and use of motor vehicles, aircraft and water craft as well as from the use of the state transportation facilities, including the state ferry system. She added that these bills allowed the legislature to appropriate money from the fund for maintenance and operation of a state or local government transportation facility, for the improvement and construction of harbor facilities, or the administration and enforcement of motor vehicle laws. She said historically when a bill moves through the legislative process, a "Christmas Tree" approach happens, by this she meant the adding of additional clauses to a simple bill. She said this approach was what killed similar bills. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES described her involvement with CSHJR 49(STA). She said she negotiated this issue last year and had filed another bill which had a broader scope. She decided against the other bill because she felt a narrow approach was needed in order for CSHJR 49(STA) to pass. She said she was willing to negotiate the issues, but didn't want changes made so that control over the fund was lost. She said, in discussions with the public, that they didn't mind paying a higher road or use tax as long as that tax was used only for highway maintenance. Number 295 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that the current tax, 24 cents per gallon, brings in $24 million a year with the current road maintenance cost totaling $75 million per year. She said the current tax would need to be tripled in order to pay for current maintenance. She said, if you triple the tax a fund must be set up to guarantee that the tax won't fund something else. Number 352 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said this CSHJR 49(STA) was an important constitutional amendment which would be put on the ballot. She said everyone she talked to was in favor of CSHJR 49(STA). She said she did not approve of dedicated funds, but this is an appropriate fund, and added that many other states have a dedicated fund for this purpose. She advocated giving the legislature the ability to appropriate funds, and said there was no sense of going to meet on budget issues when everything had already been decided. She said she would be willing to answer any questions on CSHJR 49(STA). Number 392 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said that it has been his experience that the public complains most about permanent fund dividend accounts, and the second grievance was usually about the maintenance of roads, in regards to the condition and plowing of the roads. He asked for clarification on a specific point and was told that section was deleted from the current version of CSHJR 49(STA). Number 450 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said she deleted that section because the focus of the CSHJR 49(STA) was getting too broad. She added that license fees pay, into the general fund, about three times what it costs to maintain that service. Representative Bill Williams joined the committee meeting at 1:16 p.m. CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS mentioned a proposed CSHJR 49(TRA), but said he wanted to keep the discussion focused on CSHJR 49(STA) and to decide later in the meeting which version the committee would chose as its working document. He reiterated that the amount the fuel tax earns is less than the maintenance cost of $75 million, which does not include the cost of capital projects. Number 600 REPRESENTATIVE DON LONG said, in Barrow, roads are owned and maintained locally. He questioned a tax which would be imposed in his district, but wouldn't receive the benefits of it. Number 632 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that because no highway use tax is paid in Barrow, then CSHJR 49(STA) does not affect Barrow. She said the only roads, that this tax applies towards, are maintained by the highway road system. She said other vehicles that are off the state roads, have an exemption and do not pay this tax. She cited the example of logging trucks in the timber areas who are not subject to this tax. Number 701 REPRESENTATIVE LONG asked if this intent was going to be identified in CSHJR 49(STA). Number 717 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said she believed this intent was automatic, because of the definition of highway use. She said fuels can sometimes be purchased for vehicles that don't use state highways and roadways, but that a claim can be filed to get the tax back. She believed that, if you do not have any state owned roads, you would not be affected by this tax. Number 782 REPRESENTATIVE LONG clarified that a tax was being currently collected, and CSHJR 49(STA) would merely place that tax in a special fund. Number 808 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said CSHJR 49(STA) allows the legislature to make changes to the collection and allocation of those funds. Number 834 REPRESENTATIVE BILL WILLIAMS asked how CSHJR 49(STA) would affect the Alaska Marine Highway System. Number 847 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said CSHJR 49(STA) does not affect the Alaska Marine Highway System because it doesn't collect any marine fuel tax. She said the proposed CSHJR 49(TRA) involves the Alaska Marine Highway System as well as aircraft, but deferred comment on CSHJR 49(TRA) to its sponsor, Chairman Gary Davis. Number 834 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS pointed out that the Alaska Marine Highway System is a highway system that has trouble getting funds to maintain its operations. Number 937 REPRESENTATIVE JERRY SANDERS asked whether Barrow or the Alaska Marine Highway System pays this highway user fee. CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS deferred that question to Mr. Kito. Number 971 SAM S. KITO III, Special Assistant, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT/PF), was next to testify. He said the current tax collected is 8 cents per gallon which generates about $24 million. He said CSHJR 49(STA) is approximately a "$2.6 million per penny increase". The taxes are collected at the pump per gallon of gas, so if Barrow is selling gas to automobile users through a gas pump, they are probably paying the 8 cents per gallon. If the gas is being used off road, they can apply for a refund also called an exemption, for off-road use which is currently 6 cents per gallon. Number 1036 MR. KITO said the Alaska Marine Highway System does not pay a tax. He said if we were to fund the Alaska Marine Highway System, it would most likely be funded out of taxes collected through highway use because of the definition of the marine highway system. He said this definition specifies that the Alaska Marine Highway System is part of the state highway system. Number 1060 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS asked for additional clarification on the Alaska Marine Highway System being linked to the highway system. Number 1067 MR. KITO said, currently, if CSHJR 49(STA) provided for funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System, the funding would be taken out of the highway fuel tax. The reason for this is that the highway fuel tax is related to the mode of highways and under the statutory definition the Alaska Marine Highway System is included under this definition. Number 1096 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked if some of the $75 million, currently paid on highway maintenance, is being used for the maintenance of the Alaska Marine Highway System. Number 1115 MR. KITO said no, it is not. The Alaska Marine Highway System maintenance is paid out of a separate appropriation. He said to permit funding of the Alaska Marine Highway System through some type of dedicated fund, the funding would probably come through taxes related to highway motor fuel. Number 1133 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said the sponsors intent was to take the highway use tax, or the tax that is actually causing the need for maintenance, to be related to the maintenance. She said if the fund, proposed under CSHJR 49(STA) allowed the maintenance of the Alaska Marine Highway System, then it is a discrepancy. She added that she had no problem including the Alaska Marine Highway System if there is a tax that is appropriate to the use of that system to pay for the maintenance costs. She felt that the highway tax was the most fair tax, because it had a direct correlation between the user and the use of the highway. Number 1204 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said he believed any version of CSHJR 49(STA) allowed the legislature to dedicate a tax. He said, if you want to dedicate a tax, it could be done later through statute. He added that CSHJR 49(STA) could specifically exempt the Alaska Marine Highway System from this process. Number 1264 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said CSHJR 49(STA) specifies that the revenue from June 30, 1997, derived from state taxes on the fuel used for the propulsion of motor vehicles designed for and used on highways and roads, less refunds, credits, and the cost of collection of that tax, shall be placed in a highway fund. "Except as provided in (d) of this section, the legislature may appropriate money from the fund only for the maintenance of roads and highways by the state or a local government." She said her intent was that it would not include the Alaska Marine Highway System. She said she would like to exclude the Alaska Marine Highway System, unless there is some provision of tax that comes from the use of the ferries that are paid into this dedicated fund. She didn't believe that, currently, there was any such tax. Number 1333 MR. KITO said the way CSHJR 49(STA) is currently drafted, the fund could only be used on a surface highway or road. He said if it was worded, "highway system," then it would include the Alaska Marine Highway System. Number 1354 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS said the Alaska Marine Highway System has a maintenance program of approximately $4 million per year to maintain Coast Guard safety regulations. He said the $4 million is appropriated yearly by the legislature and he expressed the difficulty involved with keeping the ferries maintained each year. Number 1428 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said if you look at any dedicated road or highway tax, the purpose is to replenish and refurbish any damage that is being done by driving that vehicle on that road. He said that CSHJR 49(STA) could specifically mention this point or it could be left in broad language to be later interpreted through statute. Number 1471 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES clarified that the Alaska Marine Highway System is paid for by the state and that the system pays no tax. She said this is why there is a general fund appropriation, because the Alaska Marine Highway System has no way of creating any revenues from its action, as compared to the direct correlation of a cars debilitation of a highway. She expressed interest on working on the issue of funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System, but that CSHJR 49(STA) was not intended to solve that issue. She said if you were to include funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System, you would have a problem getting public approval for CSHJR 49(STA). Number 1555 MR. KITO said for conceptual purposes, the DOT/PF would look at the Alaska Marine Highway System as a bridge that links one point to another and, in that way, it is part of the highway system. Number 1575 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS asked if Chairman Gary Davis intended to move CSHJR 49(STA) today. Number 1580 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said he had that intention, but the issues raised needed to be addressed before CSHJR 49(STA) was moved. Number 1608 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS made a point regarding the fact that those people in Southeast Alaska are the only ones who have to pay to use a highway system. He said he would like to talk with the sponsor of CSHJR 49(STA) and with the Administration to see if there is a way around this issue. Number 1643 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said the Administration looked favorably on a bill such as CSHJR 49(STA). She asked if the Administration was also looking at a dedicated fund to be used for the maintenance of the Alaska Marine Highway System. Number 1665 MR. KITO said the Administration had looked at some concepts to fund the Alaska Marine Highway System through a dedicated fund, but the conclusion reached was that there was a lot of need without a lot of revenue. He said they were never able to come up with what revenue stream might work in terms of the amount needed. Number 1691 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said the full intent and purpose of the tax that people pay to drive on the roads, through the fuel pump, is maintenance of the roads. The full intent and purpose of CSHJR 49(STA) is to allocate those taxes, paid to drive on the road, to fix the roads. She added that when you expand CSHJR 49(STA) into the Alaska Marine Highway System, the intent changes. She said she would be willing to look at some other source to provide that funding. She again referred to public opinion and the need to have CSHJR 49(STA) directly correlate between taxes and use. Number 1758 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS reiterated the point that CSHJR 49(STA) needed to be "sellable" to the voters. He added that CSHJR 49(STA) was already being complicated through committee suggestions as well as CSHJR 49 (TRA). He said he wished to discuss CSHJR 49(TRA). Number 1804 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS asked if Barrow, currently, paid the fuel tax. Number 1812 MR. KITO said that if a place has a road system, and they are selling gasoline through a pump for automobiles on their road system, then they are paying a motor fuel tax. He said if you are off a road or highway, not specifically a state road or highway, then you don't need to pay that tax. He cited examples where this was the case, including four wheelers and generators, and said a fuel tax exemption could be filed on the gas bought for those purposes. MR. KITO said, that places where roads were owned and maintained by the municipality still pay the 8 cent tax on the gas bought, even though none of the revenue would be coming back from the state to maintain those roads. Number 1885 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS clarified that the municipalities could pay a tax and not have that tax go back and support that municipal road. Number 1891 MR. KITO said that was correct, except for the component which is tied to the Department of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA) revenue sharing for roads. He said it is not a direct tie. He said the community receives a stipend for each center line mile of road that it owns. Number 1908 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said the Fairbanks North Star Borough road service areas receive money from the DCRA. She added that she was not aware that Barrow was paying a fuel tax from which they did not receive any money. Number 1930 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said it would be difficult to estimate the amount of time people spend driving on state roads as compared to municipal roads. Number 1955 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said if this constitutional amendment, CSHJR 49(STA), were to go through and it appeared that money raised from the tax could be channeled back to the locality. She said those localities would be better off under CSHJR 49 (STA), then they are currently. Number 1977 MR. KITO said they could be better off under CSHJR 49(STA), if enough money was collected and deposited into the fund. Currently the money collected from the fuel tax does not meet state maintenance needs. If more money were collected, under CSHJR 49(STA), that money could be used to fund DCRA revenue sharing for local roads. Number 2001 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS then discussed the proposed CSHJR 49(TRA). He said the proposed CSHJR 49(TRA) changes the fund to a transportation fund, instead of limiting it solely to a highway fund. Taxes are collected from motor vehicles, marine or water craft tax, and aircraft tax and put into a dedicated transportation fund. CSHJR 49(TRA) also allows the legislature to appropriate money from that fund for maintenance and operation of state and local government transportation systems. He said CSHJR 49(TRA) is a broader resolution allowing the legislature to dedicate funds for ports and harbors, airports as well as highway systems, including the Alaska Marine Highway System. He said CSHJR 49(TRA) addresses the long term issue of the possibility of receiving more revenues which under CSHJR 49(TRA) could then be dedicated to other purposes. Number 2162 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES reiterated the intent of CSHJR 49(STA) was to directly correlate the use of the tax with the user. She thought the idea of marine taxes going to marine use and aircraft taxes going to airports was a good thing, but expressed concern that the public might perceive the taxes they pay in the highway tax, might go to fix docks rather than the highways. She understood that legislation can specify how money is allocated, but without the specific wording, it is left open to public speculation on what might happen. She again cited the "Christmas tree" example and her intent of CSHJR 49(STA). Number 2247 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS clarified that if more tax was collected than spent on maintenance costs, then the fuel tax would be cut. He then asked if both the CSHJR 49(STA) and the proposed CSHJR 49(TRA) could be on the table for testimony. Number 2279 MR. KITO said the DOT/PF would like to see harbors, not so much aviation, in a dedicated fund. He said if the state has a dedicated revenue stream for the harbors program, the state would then be able to transfer harbors back to the communities. He said in the past five years, the revenue collected through the marine motor fuel tax has been in the neighborhood of $7 million, of which 37 percent has gone to harbor facilities with the rest going into the general fund. In a marine dedicated fund, the Administration would like a move away from maintenance and operations towards the construction and operation of facilities. He said the mooring fees collected by the communities pays for the harbors, but that the dedicated fund could be used for a replacement fund for their harbor systems. Number 2347 MR. KITO said separating the taxes collected into a dedicated fund makes it easier to sell to the public. He said the DOT/PF would support the construction of highways from this fund, if at some point revenues collected are more than the cost of the yearly maintenance. Number 2378 MR. KITO said, in regards to aviation, current revenue collected through taxes is not enough to cover half of aviation operation and maintenance costs. Number 2391 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS asked if it takes a third of the $7 million collected for marine fuel taxes to maintain the facilities. MR. KITO said from a historical perspective, 37 percent has been spent on harbors over the past five years. Number 2400 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked if there was a need to spend more than that amount on harbors. Number 2404 MR. KITO said yes, according to the DOT/PF there is a need to spend more for harbor repair and replacement. He said DOT/PF is currently in the process of transferring harbors to communities, but the revenue does not exist to do this. He cited the DOT/PF expenditure of $100,000 for the South Cove harbor facility to transfer it over to the city of Craig. The Administration hoped that through a dedicated revenue stream, more of this could happen with the 90 harbors Alaska currently owns, with the exception of 22 facilities not under the jurisdiction of specific communities. Number 2448 DAVID W. HAUGEN, Vice-President, Lynden Transport, Incorporated, was next to testify. He said his company was in general support of CSHJR 49(STA). He said Lynden has operations in all modes within the state of Alaska including the air cargo business, the trucking, as well as in marine operations. He said the dedicated fund, as specified by Representative James, makes sense and his company would support it. TAPE 96-5, SIDE B Number 000 MR. HAUGEN said his company is not sure what the amount of tax would be, but that his company would be willing to pay their fair share of that tax, as long as they were reassured that the money would go directly to the dedicated fund. He said this is how the trucking aspect of his company perceives CSHJR 49(STA). Number 030 MR. HAUGEN said his company would defer any comments about the proposed CSHJR 49(TRA) as they had just received a copy of it. He said he would like to see more clarification regarding the different components of the transportation committee substitute, specifically how the Alaska Marine Highway System would fit in with CSHJR 49(TRA). He also questioned how a dedicated fund would work as far as aviation was concerned. He said the air cargo portion of Lynden operates out of Anchorage International Airport which is already a dedicated fund between the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports. Number 069 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS clarified that the trucking part of Lynden Transport, Incorporated would not object to a motor fuels tax if it was dedicated to benefiting the highways. He then asked if his company would conceptually accept a higher marine fuel tax if it was dedicated to improve port facilities around the state. Number 096 MR. HAUGEN said that was "true at this time" because of lack of information regarding this issue. He added that this would also be true under the air component of Lynden Transportation. He said CSHJR 49(TRA) appears to be a more complicated version, especially in regards to going between modes. He said his company would insist that the modes be kept separate, so that money derived from marine fuel taxes go to marine projects, as the same with airports and surface transportation. He felt this could be accomplished within the language of the legislation. He said if it could be done and it was a fair treatment, his company would not object to paying a higher tax. However, his company would object if they felt they were paying for something that they did not utilize or money is used in ways that they have no control over to fund something that is well beyond the scope of something Lynden Transport, Incorporated does as part of their business. Number 154 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said in the committee packet, a 1988 study was included, which discussed the transportation system in the state of Alaska. Number 183 MR. KITO said the current amount collected through aviation gasoline and jet fuel was approximately $9.5 million. CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said there is a question of how to incorporate language between the sponsor and Representative Williams. He said there was also the question of which committee substitute the House Standing Committee on Transportation wants to adopt. He said he would amend the transportation committee substitute to separate the taxes by modes. Number 253 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES repeated the figures of collecting $24 million, spending $75 million and said that the amount being spent on operation and maintenance of the highways was insufficient. She clarified that most of the motor fuel tax collected is going back to the localities. She concluded that a lot of taxes were being collected, but not enough was going back for the actual maintenance. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES added that only 37 percent of the marine fuel tax is going towards maintenance, which is a different situation than that of the highway and road system. She then asked Mr. Kito what percentage of aviation tax was spent on maintenance. Number 293 MR. KITO said the amount spent on aviation operation and maintenance was approximately $23 million. Number 300 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said the aviation system and the highway system are similar, but that the marine system is different. She said if you separate the modes, and only 37 percent is going to be spent on the marine facilities, the public will object to that high tax. She said when you try to make a fair assessment of how these taxes ought to be collected and used, we find that the state is completely out of balance. She said it is going to be a hard sell to the people, who want more money spent on the roads, to tell them the amount they spend is not even starting to pay for the services currently provided. She said people are willing to pay more, if it is going to be spent on the roads. She said she preferred her narrow version of CSHJR 49(STA), but she would be willing to see if any language could be inserted, separating the modes for collection and dispersement. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stated that the Alaska Marine Highway System was a different type of situation then the situation proposed under CSHJR 49(STA). She said allocation of funds for maintenance of the Alaska Marine Highway System will need to be done under the general fund, fares, or some other provision. She said she would want to specifically exclude the Alaska Marine Highway System so that the language in CSHJR 49(STA) translates into surface roads and highways. Number 404 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS clarified that the state collects $7 million in marine fuel taxes annually and we spend 35 percent on operation and maintenance. Number 421 MR. KITO said of the marine fuel tax revenue collected for capital projects, over the past five years, the state has spent an estimated 37 percent. He added that revenue generated thorough moorage fees at the harbors, are used at those harbors for very basic maintenance and operations costs. The Administration believes that the harbors would still continue to take care of their operations and some minor maintenance. The issue is making a provision for long term or replacement of harbor facilities. He said none of the $7 million goes to the communities. He said if money was put into a dedicated fund, that revenue would go to assisting the state in transferring facilities to communities. Eventually, at some point, the state would share the revenue collected in taxes with communities that own their harbors. Number 473 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said the state contracts most of the operation and maintenance of the harbors and port facilities. He then asked if the state had any control over moorage or slip fees. Number 482 MR. KITO said no. He said, typically, the communities will charge fees in correlation with the operational cost of their facility, but defer to the state for long term maintenance and replacements costs which the state has not been able to do over the past few years. Number 515 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES made a motion to adopt the CSHJR 49(STA) as the working document. CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS objected for purposes of discussion. Number 534 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS said he felt that CSHJR 49(STA) should go through, and that CSHJR 49(TRA) should be submitted as a separate bill. CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said that the CSHJR 49(TRA) would be amended to take out the aviation component because the highway fuel tax will lack additional revenue. Number 584 REPRESENTATIVE LONG clarified that both the CSHJR 49(STA) and the CSHJR 49(TRA) want to create either a transportation or a highway fund. He said the voters would adopt this resolution, and that it would end up giving the legislature the ability to do what they want with the fund. He therefore proposed an "amendment to both copies which is going to be the same, it's taking out all of the section on page two, section 2 through 11, and move on line one, `as provided by law' behind transportation fund." He clarified that he was referring to the CSHJR 49(TRA). His ability to put forth this amendment was discussed and Representative Long reiterated his point about giving the legislature such an authority. Number 680 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said a number of things need to be addressed and the proper place to start is with the CSHJR 49(STA). Number 700 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS asked if the wording, "highway fund", can still address the marine system. Number 725 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said the CSHJR 49(STA) can be amended in any way necessary. CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS asked if there was any interest in the proposed CSHJR 49(TRA), seeing none, CSHJR 49(STA) was the working document before the House Standing Committee on Transportation. Number 785 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said combining three modes into one bill creates three different scenarios. The highway use tax collected is a lot less than what the state is spending. The marine tax that is collected is a lot more than we are spending and an aircraft fuel tax is another place where we collect a lot less then we spend. To combine those three aspects into one bill will be difficult, but she said she was willing to do it if it is possible. Number 830 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said the aviation mode should be eliminated from the proposed changes to CSHJR 49(STA). Number 847 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said the aviation fuel tax is not representative to the amount that is being spent, and she added that she didn't feel the users were willing to increase their taxes a sufficient amount to do so at this point in time. She said "it is not fair to talk about marine taxes or another bill, but you know, Representative Moses had another bill on marine taxes that would have increased the marine tax and shared half of the marine tax with the locality so that they would have the money to spend on docks and facilities." She said that bill was a good solution to take care of local harbors and docks. She suggested that maybe there was something that could be done, outside of a constitutional amendment, to correct the marine problem. Number 907 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said the problem with Representative Moses bill was that it increased the tax without the assurance that half of the money would go to the localities because of the dedicated fund issue. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said the assumption was that the localities would fix those things. CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS asked if Representative James wanted CSHJR 49(STA) to specify that a share would go to local municipalities. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said yes, when it was fair, and when the municipality had road powers. Number 933 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS established a working group composed of Representatives Williams, James and G. Davis to go over the draft and come up with changes.