The Alaska House Transportation Committee moved a bill Thursday that would increase costs at the pump, if passed. Alaska currently has the lowest motor fuel tax in the nation. The gas we put in our cars is taxed at 8 cents a gallon, and has been since 1970.

Gov. Bill Walker wants to triple the tax over the next two years, but the House Transportation committee passed an amendment to spread it out over three. Many in the House support House Bill 60 because of the state’s multi-billion dollar budget shortfall.

“It’s time,” Rep. Louise Stutes, Co-Chair of the Transportation Committee, said of the tax hike. “The complexion in the state and the state’s finances have changed and we all need to step up to the plate.”

The proposal goes beyond roads and highways, it also taxes fuel for boats and planes.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates the average ticket price, per passenger, for a flight from Juneau to Seattle would increase by $1.37.

But Alaskans will get hit harder at the gas pump. OMB predicts a Wasilla to Anchorage commuter will pay $240 more a year for fuel.

“Our people travel by using vehicles,” Sen. Dunleavy of Wasilla said. “The distances are much greater there, the costs are much greater, the fuel costs are much greater and so folks are saying please don’t put the burden of this fiscal issue just on our backs.”

Dunleavy says rural areas within his district will also suffer under the proposed increase.

“It’s going to cost more to live there. I think what you’re finding, especially in rural parts of my district like Copper River, you have people moving because of fuel costs,” said Dunleavy.

Stutes says an increase in the cost of living statewide is inevitable.

“Cost of goods will go up, certainly, cost of goods will go up in urban Alaska as well,” Stutes said, adding that because revenues from the motor fuel tax will fund road maintenance, it’s fitting that those who use the roads most should have to pay more. “It’s a choice of people if they want to live in a spot where they have to commute. They use those roads every day; the roads have to be maintained.”

The Transportation committee adopted an amendment to House Bill 60 Thursday, put forward by Stutes, that allows commercial fisherman a 3 cent per gallon rebate on marine fuel.

The bill passed 5-2.

KTVA 11’s Liz Raines can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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