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'Now Is The Time': Gas Tax Hike Advocates Urge Action As Prices Slide

Josh James

Kentucky lawmakers are once again pushing to boost the gas tax to help shore up the state's struggling road fund. Monday's sharp drop in oil prices could convince holdouts to move forward with the long sought-after tax hike.

LaRue County Judge Executive Tommy Turner told backers of the tax increase at a rally Tuesday that skeptical lawmakers should take notice of falling gas prices and act quickly.

"Back home this morning, fuel was $1.89 a gallon," he said. "If there is ever a time, now is the time." 

House Bill 580 would tack an extra 9 cents in taxes on every gallon of gas for the average driver, increase registration fees, and alter the formula used to allocate state infrastructure dollars to local communities. Supporters argue it's crucial to get road maintenance and construction projects back on track.

"The federal projects are moving forward, but the state projects are being slipped," Sen. Ernie Harris said. "That's the best example that I can give on why we need this plan, because all those state projects are critical."

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Kentucky's roadways a D in their most recent infrastructure report card.

But some want to put the brakes on the measure, including those using less gas - hybrid and electric vehicle owners. Under the bill, those drivers would face new registration and renewal fees.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.