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WV Senate advances gas tax, fee increases


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate’s transportation committee approved a bill Tuesday, March 14 that would raise a portion of the tax consumers pay on gasoline and raise the fees on a plethora of documents provided by the Division of Motor Vehicles.

The legislation, Senate Bill 477, would raise a portion of the gas tax from 20.5 cents per gallon to 25 cents per gallon. The bill also would raise the fees for vehicle titles and related documents from $5 to $10, the cost of a registration from $28.50 to $50 and the cost of reproducing DMV records from $1 to $1.50.

Lawmakers have not taken any action to change DMV fees since 2011, committee members were told.

In all, the changes are expected to generate about $34 million a year intended to go to road repairs and maintenance. The West Virginia Legislature has done little in recent years to address the state’s decaying roads and bridges.

But Louis Southworth, a lawyer representing Go Mart and other state convenience store owners, warned the committee that West Virginians who live in border areas of the state likely would take their business across state lines to buy gasoline if the gas tax is raised. He said retailers saw it happen when West Virginia raised its tax on tobacco during the most recent legislative session.

Southworth said gasoline would be cheaper in every surrounding state except Pennsylvania if the Legislature were to raise the gas tax.

Mike Clowser, executive director of the Contractors Association of West Virginia, said raising the gas tax and DMV fees is needed to address the state’s roads. He said West Virginia has been forced to put off bridge and other maintenance due to budget constraints, and said the state is now the fifth worst in the country for deficient bridges.

Clowser said the cost of the proposed changes to the average motorist would come to about $90 a year, compared with an average of $1,000 a year state residents pay for damage to their vehicles from bad roads.

Committee members voted to send Senate Bill 477 on to the finance committee for further discussion.

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