Senator Dave Herbert is considering an alternative funding mechanism to bankroll the return of passenger rail service in Oklahoma, one that won't bite state farmers.
The Midwest City legislator originally proposed a two-cent increase in the state diesel tax and a one-half cent hike in the gas tax, but he's now rethinking the proposal in light of Oklahoma farmers' heavy reliance on diesel fuel. SJR 12 has already received Senate approval and is awaiting House action.
"Our farmers have had a pretty tough go of it in recent years and I don't want to compound their problems by increasing diesel fuel costs. I think we can protect farmers and still generate enough money for passenger rail service if we shift the cost a little bit," said Senator Herbert, author of SJR 12.
The lawmaker wants to remove the diesel tax hike from SJR 12 and increase the proposed gasoline levy to an even one-cent a gallon. The revised legislation would raise a comparable amount of revenue to help defray the costs associated with restoring Amtrak service in Oklahoma.
"My main goal is to raise the money to bring passenger rail service back in Oklahoma and we can do that with just a penny a gallon on gas. That's a pretty small price to pay when you consider all of the economic and tourism benefits we'll get from an Amtrak line," said Senator Herbert.
The proposed change from one-half a cent to a full penny probably won't be noticed by consumers, according to the lawmaker. Retailers would most likely round off a half-cent increase in the gas tax, raising prices by a full penny anyway.
"The guy who fills his car up every week isn't even going to notice this. Instead of giving a few more pennies to the owner of the gas station, he'll be investing it in passenger train service and the opportunities it can bring to our state," said Senator Herbert.