New diversion of road tax discovered, citizens demand end to diversions

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Anti Toll Groups Would Back Gas Tax Increase
but only if ‘diversions’ from gas tax fund are ended
By Jim Forsyth
Friday, April 16, 2010

Leaders of the anti toll road movement in Texas are quietly notifying state lawmakers that they would support an increase in the state gasoline tax as an alternative to toll roads, but they are demanding some concessions in return, 1200 WOAI news reports.

Terri Hall, founder of the anti toll group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, says an increase in the gasoline tax would be preferable to ‘out of control’ creation of toll roads.

The Texas gasoline tax, which is 20 cents a gallon, hasn’t been raised since 1991, and the move to more fuel efficient cars is drastically cutting into the amount of money available for highway construction and maintenance, which has led to talk of toll roads.

“The studies we’ve seen would show that somewhere between eight and ten cents a gallon would meet out road needs, without having to toll our roads,” Hall said.

Tax increases are very controversial in the Texas Legislature, with the Republican leadership and Governor Perry repeatedly indicating that they would oppose tax increases.

Hall says she would back the gas tax increase if lawmakers agree not only to completely end the controversial practice of ‘diverting’ gas tax revenue to pet projects in their districts, and if lawmakers consider using the state automobile sales tax for highway projects.

“We all pay vehicle sales tax when we buy a car, and that money is now going into general revenue, instead of to roads,” Hall said.  “My understanding is that there is $4 billion a year that we could put back into roads, without having to raise any taxes.”

The legislature is expected to be facing a massive deficit, as much as $15 billion, when the next session begins in January, and Hall concedes that with the state scrambling for general fund revenue, taking billions of dollars out of the general fund may not be politically feasible.