By Erica Michel

This winter, Mother Nature is not only breaking records, she’s breaking budgets as well. From the Midwest to the Southeast and up through New England, states are reporting historic spending on snow removal.

Snow plowNew Jersey has spent $97.7 million so far this winter. Illinois has spent more than $100 million and even Georgia has spent nearly $2 million on snow and ice removal.  Some parts of the Midwest are reporting sharp increases in the price of road salt, and in Rhode Island, some cities have faced week-long delays in replenishing their salt supplies. At one point in mid-February, only one U.S. state (Florida) did not have snow on the ground. As a result, snow removal budgets, which often include sand, salt, labor and equipment are stretched thin.

While states do budget for snow removal and other storm related costs, many are already well over those budgets. However, most states do not place a limit on what transportation departments can spend on snow and ice removal. Agencies and departments often spend on credit, with the legislature appropriating the funds after the storm through supplemental appropriations.

Going over budget this winter, however, might stretch some state’s summer transportation budgets. In Michigan, a legislative proposal to provide an additional $100 million in funding to state and local agencies battling winter storm costs could mean fewer summer road projects than originally planned.

With more snow and ice expected to roll across the country in early March, state snow removal costs will most likely continue to rise. When spring finally arrives across the United States, it may bring with it one last cost of winter – pothole repair. The freezing and thawing of winter often damages roads, and this year’s particularly harsh winter could bring higher than average road repair costs this spring. 

Sources: Various news stories.

Erica Michel is a research analyst in the Fiscal Policy program at NCSL.  

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