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Lawmakers cut $4 billion from transportation package
SALEM — Lawmakers have halved the amount of a statewide transportation funding bill from $8.2 billion to approximately $4 billion and put a cost cap on the state's low-carbon fuels standard in order to gain enough votes for passage.
Under the most recent proposal, the state's existing 30-cent gas tax would increase gradually over an eight-year period to a total of 40 cents, according to multiple sources close to the negotiations. The first 4-cent increase would start in 2018, with subsequent 2-cent hikes every other year. Revenue from the gas tax and hikes in registration fees would raise the some $4 billion over eight years, though the exact number could not be confirmed Thursday, June 29.
Under the deal, the excise tax on the sale of new vehicles would be reduced from 1 percent to 0.5 percent. About $12 million of the revenue from the proceeds would go toward rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles.
No change has been made to a $15 flat fee on the purchase of new adult bicycles with a value of $200.
A payroll tax of less than 0.1 percent to fund public transit also remains in place.
The latest iteration of the package appears to exclude specific funding mechanism for congestion projects in the Portland metro area, though talk has centered on the potential of using a combination of gas tax revenue and tolling on major thoroughfares to pay for Portland-specific improvements. The four chief authors of the package were not immediately available Thursday afternoon, June 29, to comment on the changes.
A sticking point in negotiations was Republicans' request for changes to state's low carbon fuels standard, which calls for greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2025. In the agreement, the GOP won a cost cap of $200 per subsidy for efforts such as alternative fuel production and electric vehicles, a concession Republicans wanted to control the costs of the program.
Brad Reed, spokesman for Renew Oregon, said the compromise "will protect the core integrity of the program" and give clean fuels businesses enough certainty to allow them to invest in Oregon.
"From what we understand is going to be in there, this represents a good compromise," Reed said.
Gov. Kate Brown announced the agreement Wednesday, June 28, but details about the deal were not released at that time. Lawmakers have less than two weeks to vote on the legislation.