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ODOT Looking for New Funding Ideas Before 2017 Legislative Session


The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will likely ask lawmakers next year to consider several ideas to bolster funding in the face of declining fuel tax revenue.

Director Mike Patterson said the state’s political climate has given ODOT an odd funding mix.

"With a lack of desire, I guess, to increase taxes, you can see why the legislature made the decision that they did back in 2005 and didn't raise taxes but provided us a portion of income tax," Patterson said.

With increased fuel efficiency and electric vehicles poised to cut further into fuel tax revenue in coming years, ODOT is looking at all options before it reports to state lawmakers ahead of the next legislative session. Patterson said a bigger share of vehicle licensing fees could help.

"Most states receive 100 percent of that, and at one time, the highway department back in the 1930s received all the motor vehicle licensing fees," Patterson said. "But today, we receive three-tenths of 1 percent."

Oklahoma already has the nation's third-lowest fuel tax. Revenues from it go through appropriations and can be diverted to other agencies in lean times.

ODOT will also look at ideas such as per-mile taxes and shares of sales tax. Patterson said it will likely take lawmakers a couple years to pass any funding measure.

"It's important that we get started now, especially when you see more electric vehicles coming into the market," Patterson said. "It just highlights for all the DOTs across the country how much we need to come up with a sustainable revenue model."