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MUNICH, GERMANY - MARCH 23: In this photo illustration a man refuels his car on March 23, 2010 in Munich, Germany. German President Horst Koehler said higher petrol prices could help make Germans become more environmentally conscious. (Photo Illustration by Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

Miguel Villagran

HELENA — Starting July 1, Montanans will pay 4.5 cents more a gallon in taxes when they fill up their cars.

That's when increases to the state's gas tax — from 27 cents a gallon to 31.5 cents — take effect. That increase remains for two fiscal years, then jumps to 32 cents for another two fiscal years before going to 32.5 cents another two years and finally settling at 33 cents a gallon. The tax on diesel goes from 27.75 cents to 29.25 cents this summer.

The bump was approved by the Montana Legislature this spring as a way to pay for highway construction projects. It also beefs up the amount of money that goes back to cities and counties for local road work.

The Department of Transportation will create a transparency website to track the funds collected and how they are spent.

Before the Legislature convened in January, the transportation department announced the delay of 30 road projects because of a lack of the money in the fund used to match federal dollars for those projects. That fund is filled by the gas tax.

The Department of Justice also said it would have to lay off 27 troopers because of shortfalls in tax revenue.

The amount of money in the highway special revenue account had been nearing inadequate levels for years as fuel consumption dropped because of more efficient vehicles. Montana's last gas tax increase was 24 years ago.

Montana is one of eight states increasing its gas or diesel tax this summer. The others are Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, South Carolina, California, Maryland and New Jersey.

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