SAN FRANCISCO - Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski plans to sign a transportation infrastructure package that will raise $300 million annually to pay debt service on bonds and to fund local spending on roads, bridges, and public transit.
The legislature passed the Jobs and Transportation Act of 2009 on Friday. Gubernatorial spokeswoman Jillian Schoene on Monday said Kulongoski plans to sign the package when it reaches his desk.
The state will get about half of the new revenues and will use about $70 million of its share to back $840 million of revenue bonds to fund roadwork. The remainder of the state's portion of the new revenues will by used on a pay-as-you-go basis for the same types of projects. The other $150 million in anticipated annual revenues will be shared by cities and counties for use on transportation projects as well.
The package before Kulongoski also includes authorization for about $100 million of lottery revenue bonds to finance construction of rail, marine, air, and public transit projects.
"The passage of the Jobs and Transportation Act of 2009 represents the most important action the legislature can take this session to create thousands of jobs, improve our infrastructure for freight, commerce, and goods, and advance our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state," Kulongoski said in a statement.
The plan will increase gasoline taxes by 25% to 30 cents a gallon by 2011, raise vehicle registration fees by almost 60% to $86, increase title fees by 40% to $77, raise the price of license plates by 300% to $20, and increase the cost of a drivers license by 29% to $44.50.
In a nod to the difficulty of paying higher taxes and fees during a deep recession, lawmakers made the new gas tax partially dependent on an economic recovery. The tax increase won't take effect until the state experiences two consecutive quarters of job growth or until Jan. 1, 2011, whichever is earlier.
The package is also smaller than the governor initially proposed last November. He wanted a $499 million annual revenue measure and planned to use cigarette taxes, rather than lottery receipts, to back the rail, air, and public transit measures. The state constitution limits use of gas taxes and vehicle fees to road spending.
Lawmakers touted the bill's potential to create jobs throughout the economically hard-hit state. Oregon's jobless rate rose to 12% in April, the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation after Michigan's. The national unemployment rate was 8.9% in April.
Lawmakers said the bill will create 4,600 jobs a year over the next five years and will lay the foundation for future economic growth by improving the state's multi-modal transportation system, which will allow for better movement of goods by improving connections between the state's road, rail, port and air transportation infrastructure.
"This is a bill we need now," state Rep. Vicki Berger, R-Salem, said in a statement. The legislation "puts Oregonians to work immediately."
The bill passed the House in May and was approved by the Senate on Friday. It garnered fairly broad bi-partisan support, passing the Senate by a 24-to-6 margin.
After the governor signs the bill in the coming days, it will be up to Treasurer Ben Westlund to sell bonds, as projects require funding. While some of the projects are ready to begin construction this year, others won't begin for several years because they still require more engineering work and environmental approvals, Schoene said.
Oregon's general obligation debt is rated Aa2 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's.