PHOENIX — State lawmakers are considering a bill that would do something that hasn't been done in Arizona in almost 30 years: increase the gas tax.
HB 2899, proposed by Republican Rep. Noel Campell, would double the gas tax over the next three years for standard passenger cars. The tax would increase 6 cents per year:
2021: 24 cents per gallon
2022: 30 cents per gallon
2023: 36 cents per gallon
Owners of electric and hybrid vehicles would have to pay an annual tax.
For electric vehicles, the fee starts at $111 in 2021, then increases to $139 in 2022, then to $166 in 2023. For hybrids, the annual tax is $45 in 2021, $56 in 2022 and $67 in 2023.
After 2023, the taxes will be adjusted to reflect inflation.
The current gas tax of 18 cents per gallon has not been changed since 1991, and it does not apply to alternative fuels.
The money collected from the tax goes toward the Highway Patrol and maintaining state highways. But for years, lawmakers have prioritized the Highway Patrol, putting off road repairs.
The Legislature tried to alleviate the issue in 2018 when it approved a new “public safety fee." It added $32 to the vehicle registration process starting in January 2019.
However, the fee – which was signed into law during a statewide teacher strike – took many by surprise and was so unpopular that lawmakers eventually reached a deal to phase it out by July 2021.
The new gas tax bill would create a specific account in the highway revenues fund called the Arizona Road Use Account.
Any money put in that account would be earmarked specifically for maintaining and constructing roads statewide. The bill would prohibit using Arizona Road Use Account funds for law enforcement activities.
HB 2899 passed the House Transportation Committee last Wednesday. Four Democrats and two Republicans, including Campbell, voted "yes." Three more Republican members of the committee were absent.
Campbell introduced a similar bill last year, but the proposed increase was steeper – going up to 43 cents per gallon by 2022.
Several local governments signed in support of HB 2899, along with the Arizona Transit Association, the Arizona Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Arizona.
Two environmental groups, the Sierra Club and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, signed in opposition to the bill.
Tesla Motors, Inc, Americans for Prosperity, the Arizona Petroleum Marketers Association and Arizona Free Enterprise Club are also against the bill.