Poll: Texans don't want tolls, gas tax hikes

Link to poll story here or read it below.

The headline declares Texans want their roads fixed but don’t want to pay for them. But it’s not a matter of not wanting to fund them, it’s a matter of economics. Texans don’t have any more money to give to transportation with gas at $4 a gallon! The cost of living is rising much faster than our ability to pay for it. Then, when you consider TxDOT spending $100,000 a month on lobbyists and $9 million on an ad campaign pushing toll roads and the Trans Texas Corridor, frivolous spending like $18 million rest stops with free Wi-Fi, and the endless raiding from our gas taxes that we ALREADY PAY for roads, it’s no wonder Texans are in no mood for tax hikes.

Add to all that the fact that the State of Texas has had surplus after surplus (which is a result of overtaxation) with another $15 billion surplus projected by the start of next year’s legislative session, Texans don’t believe the State is out of money or that we’re taxed too little, not for one minute!

I found it interesting that the poll didn’t use numbers at all like amount of gas tax hike or any cost comparisons on toll project costs versus freeways. Like on US 281, to keep it a freeway would cost $170 million, but to make it a toll road, it will cost $1.3 billion. This would likely draw much stronger opposition to tolling existing roads given that information. They also shied away from informing people about the specific number of lane-miles slated to be tolled and how much they’d pay per mile in tolls versus gas tax, which would help people make a more informed comparison of the choices and show that it will be difficult to avoid taking the more expensive toll roads with so many in the queue.

Nonetheless the message is clear, Texans don’t want tolls or higher transportation costs, period.

New poll shows Texans want better roads, don’t want to pay for them
By CHRISTY HOPPE / The Dallas Morning News
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
AUSTIN – Texans think congestion is a serious problem and want road improvements, but a solid majority is adamantly against paying at the toll booth or gas pump for bigger and better highways, a poll released today shows.

For state policy makers, “it shows the difficulty they’ve been having,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

Of the 1,000 Texans polled, 60 percent said they strongly oppose a hike in the state’s gas tax, while 46 percent strongly oppose tolls on new highways. Meanwhile, 53 percent said they strongly oppose tolls on existing highways.

The poll by the Texas Lyceum, a nonpartisan public policy group, showed that most Texans want to improve existing roadways as opposed to building new ones. They also would like to see a strong commitment to mass transit systems, such as light rail. There was also strong support for high-speed rail to connect cities such as Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.

In addition, 44 percent of Texans copped to talking on cell phones while driving, while 60 percent said they would favor a ban on such behavior.

Texans were also asked what they strongly would consider doing in the face of high gas prices. The number one answer – 66 percent – was buying a hybrid or more fuel efficient auto. The next was carpooling and a little over half said they are thinking about taking public transportation.

Only 37 percent said they would consider moving closer to work or school so that the commute would not be so far.

The poll, conducted June 12-20, has an error margin of 3.1 percentage points, meaning results can vary by that much in either direction.