Buying new studded tires is a winter ritual many Alaskans perform every few years. If Senate Bill 50 becomes law, that process could become significantly more expensive.


Sen. Cathy Giessel introduced the bill Monday. It would raise the tax on each studded tire from the current $5 to $75. The senator described the increase as a “public safety user fee.”


“There are states in northern climates that do ban studded tires, but this is not a ban,” she explained. “It is a user fee to help to restore the damage that’s caused from the studded tires.”


The damage, Giessel said, is especially noticeable on high-traffic freeways, like the Glenn Highway. She said the ruts pose a serious risk to commuters.


“While the state is facing these budget cutbacks, my concern is that the Department of Transportation have adequate funds to repair the damage that is being done to the roads by the studded tires,” Giessel said. “We no longer can rely on oil industry money to take up the repair of the roads, and so we need to step up and cover that cost by the users.”


Dan Williams, the assistant manager of American Tire and Auto, said customers have already expressed concerns about the bill.


“It’s going to be a hard sell up here,” Williams said. “Another $300 on top of buying tires? Tires aren’t cheap.”


In her sponsor statement for the bill, Giessel said winter tires without studs are “nearly as effective” as those with the metal studs. Williams agrees. In fact, he recommends winter tires without studs to his customers.


“Traction is just off the charts if you go with the newer models of things that are coming out,” he said.


Giessel said funds collected through the tax increase would be aimed at maintaining and repairing roads. She said the cost to repair a one-mile stretch of road damaged by ruts is roughly $1 million.


“State law prevents us from creating a dedicated fund,” Giessel stated. “However, legislative intent can direct funds to certain projects or purposes.”


Some drivers in Anchorage were not receptive to the idea.


“How is that going to stop somebody from going out and buying their own stud gun and studding their own tires?” asked Brian Cain.


The current tax costs $20 for a set of four tires. That amount would increase to $300 under SB 50.


“That’s a lot of money when you already are spending a good $800 to $1,000 on just the tires alone,” said Cynthia Ciufo.


Sen. Giessel has referred the bill to the transportation and finance committees, but has not requested a hearing. She said she will request one once she gathers more data in support of the bill.


The $5 per tire tax was implemented in 2004.


KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.