Saturday April 20, 2013

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- The Vermont Senate on Friday pulled back somewhat on a gasoline tax increase passed by the House, but has made up for that by increasing the diesel tax.

In an unusual move, the Senate gave its version of a transportation budget bill preliminary and final approval on the same day. Lawmakers said quick action was required because part of the gas tax increase is to take effect May 1 -- in just 11 days.

Exactly how large increases in fuel taxes will be is still uncertain. The House passed a slightly larger gasoline tax increase than the Senate did, and no diesel tax increase. House Transportation Committee Chairman Patrick Brennan said he hoped the two chambers could concur after informal negotiations and not have to go to a conference committee to work out the differences between the two versions.

Remarks by senators that no one wants to increase taxes but Vermont’s roads are in rough shape and in need of repair were echoed later by customers and workers at the Gulf and Sunoco stations a half block east of the Statehouse.

"The roads are in rough shape but the gas tax is high enough," said 37-year-old Fawn Buska of Barre.

Sue Steinberg of Montpelier said she drives around Washington County as a speech therapist and saw the same dilemma. "Unless there’s a way to get the underlying price of gas down, I don’t think we should raise it [the gasoline tax] higher," she said. But she added, "The roads are in terrible shape."