State Senator Robert Milacek announced on Tuesday that legislation to let Oklahomans vote on a fuel tax hike for transportation is dead for the legislative session. The Enid Republican blamed high fuel prices for the decision.
“It’s disappointing, because we’ve been working on this a long time. I believe we had an excellent shot of passing the bill and getting it to a vote of the people—but no one could have predicted the gas prices we’ve been seeing,” Milacek said.
House Bill 2632, which had been assigned to a conference committee, called for a vote of the people on increasing the state gas tax by 5 cents a gallon and diesel by 8 cents a gallon. The increases would have been phased in over three years, with the proceeds going to improve Oklahoma roads, highways and bridges.
“This would have given us the funds we need to address the fact that we rank first in the nation in unsafe bridges. But increasing prices at the pumps have eroded support for the measure. We had the votes to pass it in the Senate, but not the House,” Milacek said.
Sen. Milacek said the current situation points to the need for the United States to be less dependent on foreign oil and the whims of OPEC. He said the federal government needed to do more to increase domestic production.
Several months ago, Sen. Milacek announced he would not be seeking another term in the Senate making this his last attempt as a legislator to increase transportation funds through a fuel tax increase. However, Milacek said he was ready to assist anyone interested in taking up the cause in the future.
“I’m still convinced that this would be good for the state, but like so many other things, there is always the matter of timing. Nevertheless, it is my hope that in the near future the legislature will be able to revisit this very serious issue,” Milacek said.