Committee puts brakes on studded-tire bill

Bill is one of three revenue measures before the House Transportation Committee

Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2003

A bill to impose a $10 fee for new studded tires stalled in the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday amid opposition from some lawmakers and those affected by it.

The committee heard testimony from tire dealers and others in the industry who would be required to collect the $10 per tire fee on new studded tires. All were opposed to the measure.

After the testimony closed, House Transportation Co-chair Jim Holm, a Fairbanks Republican, asked committee members for a motion to move the bill to its next committee assignment. He was met with silence.

House Bill 173 is backed by Gov. Frank Murkowski as a way to raise $2 million for state coffers. Administration officials argue studded tires damage Alaska roads and this measure will help fund some of the repairs.

Critics argue the money raised will not be earmarked to road repair since the state constitution doesn't allow for dedicated funds. They also dispute the amount of damage done by studded tires, arguing that the softer asphalt used in Alaska contributes to the problem.

Richard Nordness, executive director of the Northwest Tire Dealers Association, testified via teleconference that the per tire fee could have a chilling effect on tire sales. It could also put drivers at risk in the winter, he said.

The bill would also require tire dealers to collect the tax, which they do not want to do, Nordness said.

Pio Cottini, of Palmer, told the committee that recent road resurfacing projects already show signs of wear before winter tire season begins due to the poor quality asphalt used.

He suggested the state impose a fee on all tires rather than single out studded tire users.

Rep. Hugh "Bud" Fate, a Fairbanks Republican, asked state transportation officials to research how much a $2.50 fee on each new tire would raise.

Fate said after the hearing that he supports Murkowski's efforts to raise funds for road repairs but does not want to dissuade people from using studded tires.

The bill is one of three revenue measures before the House Transportation Committee. All three appear to face an uphill climb if they are to be acted on by the Legislature this session.

House Bill 170 would increase fees for vehicle titles and registration collected by the state Division of Motor Vehicles. The registration increases would be from $10 to $15 per year for most classes of vehicles and title and lien fees would increase from $5 to $15.

House Bill 156 would increase the state's 8-cent per gallon motor fuel tax by 150 percent. If approved, the motor fuel tax would rise to 20 cents per gallon.

A staff member for Rep. Beverly Masek, a Willow Republican, said she plans to propose an amendment for the motor fuel tax bill later this week to ensure the estimated $41 million it raises is used for highway work.

Masek also plans to propose a resolution to put on the 2004 ballot a constitutional amendment allowing the state to dedicate funds, said aide Eric Muesser.

Revenue Commissioner Bill Corbus told the committee that the studded tire bill is critical to Murkowski's overall budget plan.

It is one of a dozen revenue measures proposed by Murkowski that are intended to raise $113 million and help balance the state budget.

Holm said there is no timeline for the bills to move out of committee. They still have to go to the House Finance Committee before reaching the floor.



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