Monday, January 22, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, January 22, 2001

State to spend more on highways

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

The state transportation department is proposing to spend $100 million over the next two years on maintaining state highways, the highest amount in recent years.

Officials said revenue from an existing rental car tax will cover the increased costs, and a gas tax increase will not be necessary.

The Department of Transportation’s proposed annual budget for fiscal years 2002 and 2003 includes $50 million annually for the Highway Special Fund for road maintenance work. In previous years, the budget was between $35 million and $40 million.

The increase in road maintenance spending will help with a backlog of projects, DOT spokeswoman Marilyn Kali said. Putting off road work only means more expensive repairs later.

"Our highway facilities are reaching a mature stage and we need to bring it back to standard," Kali said.

Gov. Ben Cayetano in 1999 had hinted at a gas tax increase to cover increasing highway maintenance costs. The combined state and city gas tax is 32.5 cents per gallon.

But Kali said the department has no plans to request a gas tax hike this year.

Recent cuts in road maintenance financing were attributed to the state raiding tens of millions of dollars from the special fund for several years to make up the state budget deficit in the 1990s.

Senate Transportation Committee chairman Cal Kawamoto said taking money from the highway fund meant less money to qualify for matching federal highway funds.

"For every $2 of our funds lost, we could have received $8 more in federal funds," said Kawamoto.

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