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Oregon truckers sue state over disproportionate road taxes

Oregon's trucking community has filed a legal challenge against the state, asserting that truckers have been unfairly burdened with a disproportionate amount of road taxes. The lawsuit, involving the Oregon Trucking Associations and three trucking companies, claims that despite making up only 15% of Oregon's vehicle population, trucking professionals are contributing a third of total motorist taxes and fees.

Driving the news: A state constitutional principle is cited in the dispute, which calls for splitting road maintenance costs in alignment with each vehicle type's impact on road wear.

Under pressure: Truckers in Oregon currently pay a weight-mile tax, a levy on vehicles over 26,000 pounds calculated based on both weight and mileage. This tax is coupled with gas taxes from passenger vehicles to fund road upkeep.

Reducing the weight-mile tax could help equalize the taxation landscape but would worsen the Oregon Department of Transportation's anticipated $680 million deficit by 2029.

  • The alternative could see increases in gas taxes or registration fees for passenger vehicles, which would likely be an unpopular move.

State response: With Governor Tina Kotek and other top officials named in the suit, the legislature has expressed intentions to reevaluate the transport funding system in 2025. However, the trucking industry is pushing for immediate action.

By the numbers: According to a biennial state review, heavy vehicles may overpay their tax share by 32% between 2023 and 2025, while light vehicles underpay by about 12%.

  • Oregon Trucking Association's president, Jana Jarvis, indicated that tax rates established in 2017 have not been appropriately adjusted as several major planned roadworks failed to materialize.
  • The trucking sector's burden could rise to an excess of $500 million in taxes by 2025 if current trends continue and planned tax increases are implemented.

The trucking association seeks to correct this imbalance and requests the legislature to retract any tax increases, while the involved companies are calling for compensations ranging from approximately $153,000 to nearly $480,000.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has refrained from commenting due to the ongoing legal process.

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