Express-News Editorial Board changes gears: Texans deserve fair analysis of options

Link to editorial here.

Editorial: Texans deserve fair analysis of options
San Antonio Express-News
01/13/2007

To hear some Texas officials tell it, privately funded toll roads are the only way to finance the state’s growing population and the traffic it generates.

Traffic congestion rose by 126 percent from 1990 to 2000, despite increased state funding. With the population poised to balloon to 36 million by 2025, this scenario will likely continue.

But no one has been willing to seriously propose a gas tax increase of $1.20 a gallon, the figure touted by state officials as needed to fund an $86 billion statewide shortfall.

Turns out both those figures are inaccurate, according to a recent study by the Texas Transportation Institute, a research arm of the Texas Department of Transportation.

According to the report, the shortfall is more like $78 billion, and $22 billion of that is covered by local, not state, dollars.

Of the remaining $56 billion, about $44 billion is needed for the largest metropolitan areas. And funding for that chunk could be achieved with an 8-cent-per-gallon increase adjusted over time for inflation in construction costs. If the tax were not tied to inflation, it would have to be raised by a flat 31 cents per gallon.

Both figures are a far cry from an instant increase of $1.20.

The gas tax, which has not been raised in 15 years, is a mix of 20 cents in state taxes and 18.4 cents in federal taxes. Since 25 percent of the state tax goes to public education, a rise in the gas tax also means more badly needed dollars for schools, as Express-News transportation writer Patrick Driscoll reported.

Toll roads should be considered where appropriate, as they offer a viable option to motorists and provide considerable upfront money from private entities. But given this new information, a gas tax increase merits serious consideration as well.

The mantra of elected officials is that any increase in the gas tax is politically unpalatable. In pursuing such a measure, elected officials risk their political capital. While that may be true, it is unfortunate.

As consumers in the world’s most prosperous nation, we must disabuse ourselves of the idea that our lifestyles must come cheaply.

Perhaps an increase in the gas tax, in addition to raising money, will raise awareness about the need for innovative forms of transportation, such as light rail or hybrid vehicles.

In his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush spoke of America’s addiction to oil. If this discussion over tolls versus taxes does anything, it should remind us of the bigger picture.

And at least state leaders owe Texans an honest view of the choices so they can decide whether they prefer more reliance on gasoline taxes or toll roads.

0 Replies to “Express-News Editorial Board changes gears: Texans deserve fair analysis of options”

  1. Charles Lindsey

    Like anyone else, I don’t like raising any taxes but raising the gas tax is a legitimate way to pay for the infrastructure needs for roads–that’s what it’s for! It’s not our fault the legislators aren’t strong enough to stand up to the political heat. Look at how the gas prices have fluctuated over the past 3-4 years anyway. If it will save us from the toll roads and slowing the traffic down then step up to the plate and fix it with an increase in gas taxes or some other mechanism, but tolling everyone in NOT the answer because you have to SLOW traffic down to force people to pay the tolls. How STUPID is that? At least with an increased gas tax EVERYONE pays not just some people.

  2. Gail McCrady

    This editorial speaks to issues that many of the grass-root organizations against tolling our roadways have been saying for a long time. What an affront to the residents and taxpayers of Texas that the lawmakers and their appointed hacks are indeed not looking out for Texans, but for their own political longevity in office. It seems its more important to them to distort facts, call grass-root citizens liars, and misuse their positions than work to do what is in the best interests of all Texans.
    Those folks who continue to battle these corrupt politicians from the grassroots are the real heroes. My hat goes off to them!

  3. Carolyn Alley

    If a tax is being increased…..Who will stop the State of Texas from using these funds for what ever or which organization have lobbied for an increase in funding? Why isn’t the money that was used in the past for such, being paid back to our road funding?

    This is politics as usual…..

    Thanks.

  4. Laura Dylla

    Wow, people are finally beginning to see that ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL, as they say in the clothing industry. The same goes for all forms of transportation, be it highway, railroad, airplanes or internet service. When Washington begins to kowtow to special interest, that is BIG BUSINESS over the taxpayers who must pay exhorbitant rates to fund these special interest boondoggles, everyone including the taxpayer loses.

    ANTITRUST laws were passed so that no ONE special interest could hold an AX over consumers or American citizens…ie railroad “robber barons” of the 1800-1900’s etc. Phone Companies, Media giants are scheming the same ways to put onerous usury taxes/toll booths on internet services…much like state transportation entities are striving to put tolls on public infrastructure. The US government WISELY believed in access for ALL people, not just the rich or those wealthiest individuals and passed laws prohibiting the execessive TOLLS or usuary fees for transportation or the phones, or media.

    People need to wake up to the insiduous push by BIG BUSINESS to claim territory such as public infrastructure for their PRIVATE usage…for exhorbitant PROFITS and then receive TAX ABATEMENTS in addition to these onerous PAY TO USE FEES we are being SOLD as the way to avoid tax increases, etc.

    ATT, SBC, Verizon promised to build FIBER OPTIC infrastructure as a result of the deregulation of phone companies, but as we can see, even with their huge tax abatements and other usuary fees on phones…these have NOT materialized because these very giants want to control the internet phenomena that has bludgeoned and overcome many of the faults of the proliferation of HUGE conglomerates that control vast networks of TV, phone, newspapers and other infrastructure needed to desciminate news or provide public service.

    Public-private partnerships of public infrastructure is just another NAME for screw the public for PROFITS. People wake up before it is TOO LATE.

  5. John O'Larnic

    Remember that if our politicians would have left the money in the funds in teh first palce we would not be in this situation. There was already a fund set up by our legislature that has a loophole in it that allowed politicians to re-allocate how the funds were used. In reality if those funds would not have been depleted we would have had access to a surplus of funds to complete these updated roads.

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