WTIC Supports Enhanced Highway Funding
As Wyoming’s second largest industry, tourism and hospitality play a significant role in our state’s economy. In 2011 Wyoming’s roads, bridges and transit system helped bring over 8 million visitors to our state generating over $2.8 billion in spending while supporting nearly 30,000 Wyoming jobs.
Approximately 80% of all visitor spending is from non-Wyoming residents and the dollars generated from visitors represents new money for Wyoming’s economy. In 2011 the number of visitors to our great state was up 4% from 2010. Expenditures per trip, total visitor spending and tax receipts totaled were all up as well over the previous year. People are clearly willing to travel and Wyoming, as the premier Rocky Mountain destination, is capturing it’s share as a result of a smart and well thought out marketing plan.
The future prospects for job creation and revenue growth for Wyoming’s travel industry are high. The U.S Travel Association estimates that domestic leisure travel will increase 1.2% in 2013 representing a new record high. Long term, by 2030, vehicle travel in Wyoming is projected to increase by another 55% which will include hundreds of thousands of additional business and leisure trips.
Unfortunately, this future growth is in jeopardy because of our state’s declining transportation infrastructure. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 18% of Wyoming’s major roads are in need of repair and 23% of our state’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Due to the current funding crisis, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) has moved to a “highway preservation” philosophy and it is estimated that to simply maintain Wyoming’s roads in their current condition $135 million is needed annually.
An interim joint legislative “super committee” comprised of both the Revenue and Transportation committee’s has been hearing comments on and developing a bill to address the ongoing issue. The most current version of the bill proposes to increase Wyoming’s fuel tax by .10 cents a gallon. In addition the bill also would increase license and vehicle registration fees. These two measures would generate somewhere around $75 million annually. While this will not solve the shortfall entirely it is a good step towards solidifying adequate funding for this critical infrastructure.
Wyoming has the second lowest fuel and diesel tax in the nation and the tax has not been increased since 1998. The proposed 10 cents per gallon increase (bringing the total fuel tax to 24 cents per gallon) would make Wyoming’s fuel tax comparable to surrounding states. A common mis-perception is that this increase will translate directly to the price at the pump. There are more factors influencing the price of gas at the pump than just the fuel tax. If Wyoming raises it’s fuel tax to a level comparable to surrounding states prices at the pump will continue to reflect a competitive market for Wyoming’s consumers.
The Wyoming travel industry cannot facilitate and compete for more travelers without an increased investment in our state’s transportation infrastructure. Raising congestion and declining safety will only discourage and restrict travel to Wyoming, produce and inhospitable environment for business travel and harm the economic competitiveness of our state’s second largest industry.
That is why the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association along with the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition fully support the proposed fuel tax increase as one component towards investing in the future of our state’s economy.