The Vermont Agency of Transportation manages the design, engineering, construction, maintenance and safety of the state’s roads, highways, rails and airports. It also manages the Motor Vehicles Department.
With a 2016 fiscal year budget of $617.6 million, Transportation is the third largest cost of the state government. Federal funds provide about 55% of the total, including the Federal Highway Administration (largely financed by federal gas and diesel taxes), Federal Transit Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal National Highway Safety Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Vermont’s gas and diesel taxes ($96.7 million), a purchase and use tax of 6% on vehicles sold in the state ($64.8 million) and motor vehicle fees ($80.1 million) provide 79% of the the state’s funding for Transportaion.
The Informed Vermonter likes user-based taxes. The more you use the state’s transportation infrastructure, the more you pay in gas and diesel taxes. Only seems fair.
The audited expenditures for fiscal year 2016 for the Transportation Department were $430.2 million, representing a $187.4 million gap to the budget. This discrepancy is a result of different accounting methods used in the audit as compared to the budget. As discussed earlier, the audited expenditures exclude capital expenditures. The vast majority of the state’s $257.4 million of capital expenditures were incurred in the Department of Transportation and this accounts for the bulk of the difference.
In addition to all of Vermont’s roads, highways, bridges and culverts, this Agency oversees nine state-owned airports, state-owned railroads, public transit providers, bike paths, park&ride facilities and pedestrian paths across the state.
Here’s some good news for the environment that presents a challenge to the Department of Transportation.
Owing to fuel efficiency, car sharing, electric vehicles and an overall decline in miles driven, gas and diesel sales have been declining steadily since 2005. By 2015, the volume of gas and diesel sold in Vermont had declined 12% since 2005. This is a national trend, so Vermont is not alone.
As gas and diesel tax revenues decline, either rates will need to be increased or other types of transport taxes will need to be implemented to assure adequate levels of funding to support the state’s transportation infrastructure.