B.C. will consider Greater Victoria gas-tax rise next year

 

The province will consider adding two cents a litre to the price of gas at the pump in Greater Victoria in 2016.

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Transportation Minister Todd Stone has written to Victoria Regional Transit Commission chairwoman Susan Brice that the province can’t consider the gas tax increase this year, but will look at it for the 2016-17 budget year.

“Although we were not able to consider an increase to the dedicated fuel tax as part of the 2015-16 provincial budget, I assure you we are committed to examining possible options moving forward,” Stone said in the letter, adding that the request for the increase will be taken into account as part of 2016-17 budget planning.

Commissioners formally requested the increase in 2013 to help offset the cost of transit expansion. If approved, it would push the transit portion of gas at the pump to 5.5 cents a litre. Every penny per litre in fuel tax translates into about $3.3 million in additional revenue for the transit system.

“I was interested to see that the request is still alive and well,” Brice said Friday.

“Certainly there’s no commitments but it’s one of the things that might be considered in the next budget. … I was always optimistic that, at some point, they would consider it because it is one of the [funding] levers that exists. It wasn’t asking for anything new in terms of powers or authority.”

The transit commission began collecting 2.5 cents on every litre of gas pumped in the CRD in 1997. In 2013, the province agreed to increase that by a penny a litre to the current 3.3 cents.

Before appealing for the latest increase, the transit commission got support for the move from various local bodies, including the Capital Regional District and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

Part of securing that support was a commitment by the commission that the new fuel surcharge would be applied to transit expansion. Brice said there’s no shortage of projects that the additional funding could be used for, from dedicated bus lanes to the West Shore to additional buses.

“At some point down the road, if the system grows more than 13 buses there has to be another depot for repairs and storage and that sort of thing.

“So there’s no end of things that it could be used for, but we had made a point that we saw it as a way for the system to grow,” she said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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