Oklahoma lawmakers to consider fuel tax hike - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Oklahoma lawmakers to consider fuel tax hike

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Motorists take advantage of lower fuel taxes in Oklahoma. (KTEN) Motorists take advantage of lower fuel taxes in Oklahoma. (KTEN)
Motorists take advantage of lower fuel taxes in Oklahoma. (KTEN) Motorists take advantage of lower fuel taxes in Oklahoma. (KTEN)

DURANT, Okla. -- Oklahoma is known for having some of the lowest taxes in the nation. Only South Carolina and Alaska have lower rates on fuel, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

That's why motorists headed to Texas often fill up in Oklahoma, which offers a three-cent per gallon advantage for gasoline purchases and a nine-cent discount on diesel fuel.

But that could soon change.

On Wednesday, state lawmakers trying to balance the budget in a special session announced that they will be discussing a proposed tax increase on motor fuel next week, which includes gasoline and diesel.

Because big rigs consume hundreds of gallons of fuel, you can understand why truckers would be concerned. The Oklahoma proposal would boost taxes by six cents a gallon for gasoline; three cents for diesel purchases.

Legislators say this would raise roughly $20 million a year to make needed repairs on deteriorating roads and bridges. But not all the fuel tax revenue goes towards that fund.

"Since 2010, there's been a large amount of money that has been diverted from the transportation needs to other needs because of the budget shortfalls," said Brad Douglass, CEO of Douglass Distributing.

The state has taken $840 million from the fuel tax revenue for other pressing needs. That's why State Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-District 48) says the legislature has to come up with a solution.

"It's a balance between getting what we have to pay for -- for good roads and bridges -- while also not trying to raise taxes on residents of our state too much," he said. 

Ownbey noted that roughly 40 percent of the people who would pay this higher fuel tax are out-of-state travelers. And he also said that even with the increase,  Oklahoma would still have the lowest taxes in the region.

We still don't know if lawmakers will make the the transportation fund a "lockbox" fund, which would prevent this tax money from being used for projects not related to transportation.

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