More calls for gas tax increase

Link to article here.

First, we want an end to gas tax diversions.
Second, we want a full audit and house cleaning at TxDOT (that has engaged in several illegal activities including waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money as well as being tone-deaf to the citizen opposition to toll roads). We’d ideally like to see elected leadership that’s accountable to the PEOPLE to head TxDOT, not the current gubernatorial political appointees.
Third, an end to or severe curbing of all planned toll projects so the taxpayers aren’t hit with a DOUBLE WHAMMY paying tolls and higher gas tax. Part of this caveat includes none of the gas tax increase goes to building toll roads or financing debt for toll roads (a massive double tax).
Fourth, get a valid figure for our actual road needs they claim the current gas tax can’t cover so if any tax is raised, it’s based on verified data not TxDOT’s current wish list.
Fifth, nix the sale of Texas roads to foreign entities in public private partnerships (PPPs known as CDAs in Texas) that mean 75 cents PER MILE (not per gallon) in NEW taxes on driving, a non-compete agreements that GUARANTEE congestion on the free lanes, and a host of other sweetheart provisions HORRIBLE for the taxpayers.
Lastly, we’re for a statewide gas tax increase (not the “local option” patchwork quilt method) with possibly indexing it to inflation for a set number of years (no more than 5 years) so it has a cap/limit and not built-in, infinite tax increases. The intent of a cap is so that it would either come before the voters for re-authorization of the indexing or by a vote of the Legislature and not allow endless, runaway taxation without valid analysis/data to support the need for it.

When you compare a 10 cent gas tax increase (if your vehicle got 20 MPG and you drove 20,000 miles a year on average, it would cost you $100 more per year) with using just ONE toll road where we’re seeing toll rates of 25 cents to $1.50 PER MILE (not per gallon) that would cost on average $2,000-$3,000 a year, it’s a no brainer that gas tax is the most fiscally conservative way to fund roads.

Our web site has a link to a study done by Texas A&M that shows a modest increase in gas tax would prevent the need for ANY toll roads in Texas.

Texas may need to increase gasoline taxes
Friday, Nov. 27, 2009
The drumbeat for a gasoline tax increase during the 2011 legislative session is hard to hear unless you pay close attention, but it’s slowly building and will be louder in the coming year.

The idea is to push the state motor fuels tax up by 10 cents per gallon. The current level of 20 cents per gallon has not been changed since 1991. Texans also pay 18.4 cents per gallon in federal fuel tax, a rate set in 1993.

There’s also talk of indexing the state tax to inflation, meaning that it would go up each year in tandem with a selected measure of the overall cost of living. State estimates show that inflation has eroded about a third of the buying power of the motor fuels tax over the years, a slide that indexing is aimed to halt.

The current state tax is projected to bring in $6.3 billion during the next two years. Under the Texas Constitution, one-fourth of that is reserved for education.

The Legislature diverts some motor fuels tax revenue and other State Highway Fund revenue (motor lubricants tax, vehicle title and registration fees) to state agencies for purposes other than building, designing or maintaining roads. In the current two-year budget, diversions from the fund amount to almost $1.6 billion.

Dallas-Fort Worth leaders have pushed hard during the past three legislative sessions for more money to be devoted to transportation. The result: abject failure.

There is always opposition in Austin to any kind of tax increase. One of the strongest opponents — notably on the fuel tax — is Gov. Rick Perry. His big issue: People out in West Texas have the roads they need. Why should they pay more to relieve traffic congestion elsewhere?

Perry’s expected opponent in next year’s Republican primary, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, has not offered a transportation plan.

Still, there’s general agreement that traffic congestion in many parts of Texas is bad and getting worse. The chairmen of the Legislature’s key transportation committees, Sen. John Carona of Dallas and Rep. Joe Pickett of El Paso, have said they will hold joint hearings on the issue in Austin next summer.

There’s no use going back to the Legislature in 2011 with the same old approaches. Transportation advocates need more allies, and that means addressing some of the concerns that have blocked previous efforts.

Here are some issues that one group of those opponents, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, wants to see on the table:

End diversions from the Highway Fund. “Put every state gas-tax dollar into road construction and maintenance,” says TFR.

Devote money first “to the most congested areas, providing relief that is real, measurable and substantive.” Specifically to be excluded, TFR says, are “boondoggles like ‘light rail.’ ”

Require transparency for all local, regional and state transportation agencies that spend tax dollars. That means posting all revenues and expenditures online for all to see.

Require accountability for those same agencies, allowing state officials to audit their books. Forbid tax expenditures on lobbying.

Those aren’t easy steps. Most of the gas-tax diversions, $1.2 billion, go to support the Department of Public Safety. The need for DPS won’t go away; money for it must come from somewhere.

By 2012, the state Transportation Department is expected to have no money — other than what it can borrow — to build new roads. It will struggle to find enough revenue to maintain existing roads.

Increasing the gasoline tax may be the way to go, but to avoid another failure, advocates must learn from their opponents.