Fuel Tax Increase Goes to Trail Grooming

Some politicians, bureaucrats and a cabal of special interest groups spent months wringing their hand over the state of Wyoming’s highways and called for a higher fuel tax to maintain them. To grease this tax grab through the legislature, tax supporters said all the money collected by the fuel tax increase would go to roads. The bill passed, and now it seems some of the increase will not go to roads. Wyoming’s State Parks and Cultural Resources (SPCR) will get a chunk of the higher fuel tax bonanza.

Will it spend its tax windfall on roads? No. It will go to trail grooming and motorboat facilities.

SPCR has a problem, though. It can’t spend its tax windfall unless it gets more spending authority from the legislature. But that’s not all — it also wants to hike snowmobile registration fees too.

Legislators have an opportunity redeem themselves for the fuel tax fudge by denying the request for more spending room and killing the fee hike bill.

To pass the fuel tax grab through the legislature, high tax enthusiasts disguised it as a long-term source of funding for highways. But fuel taxes are anything but a long term source of funding. A 2012 report by the Congressional Budget Office predicted new federal fuel-economy standards would reduce gasoline consumption by 24 percent. This means fuel tax revenue will fall over time and not, as claimed, be a long term source of funding for anything.

But did this funding fiction matter? No. The fuel tax bill passed and the tax on gasoline and diesel fuels rose from fourteen cents to twenty-four cents per gallon.

The fuel tax bill specifies that the tax increase must be spent only on highway system maintenance. But it also increases fuel tax revenues to SPCR proportionate to the tax hike.

The fuel tax hike was never intended solely for highway maintenance.

But does SPCR need more money?

SPCR already receives about $1.1 million in fuel tax cash every biennium to groom over 2,000 miles of snowmobile trails. With the fuel tax hike, this agency will receive an additional $822,525 for the 2015/16 biennium, meaning it will have about $1.9 million to blow.  

That these funds go to maintain snowmobile trails instead of roads is bad enough, but the agency doesn’t have enough spending room to spend the extra tax windfall.

At the moment, this agency only has the authority to spend $1.4 million in fuel tax revenue on snowmobile trails so it needs to convince the legislature to let it spend $537,420 more.

But that’s not all. This agency gets another $2.6 million per biennium from the federal government to spend on trails, part of which goes to snowmobile trails, and collects about $1.7 million in fees (government speak for tax) from snowmobile riders, again, to spend on trails.

Given it has more than it is able to spend from the fuel tax windfall, will it give snowmobilers a break? Of course not. It wants to hike the snowmobile rider tax too.

During Wyoming’s upcoming legislative session, the legislature will look at a bill to end a $25 resident snowmobile user fee, but it would hike registration taxes by more than the user fee reduction. So, instead of picking both pockets, the bill proposes to pick only one, but takes even more out of that lonely pocket.

If it folds the resident user fee into the registration tax, this bill would increase the privately owned snowmobile registration tax from $5 to $35 dollars, meaning, should this bill pass, effective July 1, 2014: any private snowmobile owner who paid $30 in total fees before, will pay $35 until June 30, 2016 and $40 after that.

The commercial registration tax would also go up, from $75 to $105 effective June 30, 2014 to June 30, 2016 and $120 after that. Non-resident snowmobiles continue to pay the user fee but that goes up from $25 to $35 effective June 30, 2014.

This increase will hike the agency’s registration tax take by $336,737 in 2015, $354,460 in 2016 and $478,505 in 2017. 

This agency expects to collect more than $3.6 million in tax revenue over the next biennium to spend on about 2,000 miles of snowmobile trails. That’s more than $1,800 per mile!

It’s time to end this taxpayer abuse. Legislators must stop fueling the bureaucrat spending party and leave money in the pockets of the people who earned it. 

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9 Responses to Fuel Tax Increase Goes to Trail Grooming

  1. Dagnabbitt says:

    $ 1800.00 per mile ?………OUTRAGEOUS. Our elected officials are taking Wyo in the wrong direction with all these tax increases.

  2. Seriously? says:

    Wow…If this is journalism, our country really is in trouble. Maureen should consider getting out from behind the pc screen and try something off-the-wall like talking to a snowmobiler who understands grooming and Wyoming’s fee structure. You are completely off-base and grossly misrepresenting the entire issue. Evidently when one stands behind the shield of “Liberty” responsibility is no longer necessary.

  3. Wolfrun says:

    Everyone always forgets that we pay road tax on gasoline burned in snowmobile and for years we weren’t able to recoup it all for the trails fund so let’s look into it before we go off half cocked, please.

  4. John Thomas says:

    The money from the gas tax helps pay for Law Enforcement. SPCR has donned new tactical/SWAT style uniforms for their “Park Rangers” they were issued new badges ( the size of a dinner plates) also the “Park Ranger” vehicles now display “Law Enforcement” all the sides.

    This is insane- the agency wonders why no one shows up for their meetings- while they are donning their firearms and wearing SWAT uniforms….

    Heck even the Federal Land Management agencies know enough not to place the management of the “day to day” operations of the Parks or National Forests under the thumb of Law Enforcement.

    Booyah Wyoming Liberty Group…for standing up !!!!!

  5. John Thomas says:

    Dear Wyoming Liberty Group,

    You are spot on with your concerns of SPCR and the gas tax. This tax is nothing new; it has been around for many years. SPCR also receives money from Federal gas tax as well. So they are really double dipping on the fuel tax.

    Last year SPCR chose to ride the shirt tails of WYDOT, without bringing any attention to their portion of the fuel tax. You can bet they were sitting in the Legislative hearings- Rep Madden said there was testimony, however it was obviously done in such a fashion it would not raise a flag to the public on this hot issue. Nothing is done in the light of day with SPCR.

    You need to beware the term”trail or boat ramp maintenance” is really really broad . They buy equipment, pay employees, fund Law Enforcement, pay for hotels, fuel, travel, consultants and contractors, supplies, administration, benefits, retirement……the list is very very long… My point is not all the money is going to the trails or boat ramps.

    Within the last 6 or so years there has been a significant push by SPCR to manage the “day to day” operations of the State Parks as a Law Enforcement Agency. This simply does not work- they are managing through intimidation.

    Today they are wearing SWAT style uniforms,displaying large ( dinner plate size) badges and new decals on their vehicles declaring them as Law Enforcement. Is all this really needed in our State Parks??

    Fuel Tax is being spent foolishly on these items by SPCR. This year in the Legislature they want more spending authority, they also want to “hang a tin cup” on ATM’s through out the state for donations . SPCR is also asking for authority to use “special funds” for operational needs. They want to spend more of the same……….

    I for one don’t want to be standing at ATM at -20 with 30mph winds , then be prompted to “donate” to State Parks. If I choose to donate; I then will be charged for using the machine. State Parks says in the proposed bill the banks won’t charge for the use, BUT 10% of the donation will go to the bank.. This is purely semantics, in the end the ATM user will still pay for the use of the ATM.

    Please do not think I’m anti Law Enforcement- that simply is not the case. We need Law Enforcement in our society today- but- do we need our State Parks to be managed by Law Enforcement?? I would say no we do not…

    Even the Federal Land Managing Agencies know better (term used loosely)- The DOI-BLM,BOR, DOI-NPS, and USDA/FS have separate Law Enforcement branches within the agencies -none- of them manage the day to day operations. In fact very few State Park systems in the US are managed by Law Enforcement, they all have an enforcement presence ( and rightfully so) but they are not managed by Law Enforcement.

    John Thomas

    • Dagnabbitt says:

      They need the S,W.A.T. uniforms, and AR-15s, to scare tourists back on the buss, at Obombas next government shutdown.

      • John Thomas says:

        Ha- but really SWAT uniforms for a Park Ranger??

        • Dagnabbitt says:

          When you are hiking through any of Wyomings national forests there are two things you do not want to run into—— 1 a grizzly bear, 2 a park ranger.

          • John Thomas says:

            Maybe so..however the article is about State Parks- BIG difference ..But I guess they are ready for a full out assault by the grizzly bears on Glendo State Park

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