In a stunning admission that the borrow and spend policies of Rick Perry have put Texas taxpayers in a deep debt hole, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Carona announced TxDOT can issue no more debt. They’ve maxed out the road building “credit card” so to speak. Perry has caused us to go from ZERO debt for roads to $12 billion in just over 5 years. Even worse, it appears this push for a gas tax increase is driven more by the interest in having more cash to pay down debt service as well as more cash to leverage yet MORE toll road debt.
In TxDOT’s latest budget, debt obligations entered into for toll roads far outpace estimated toll revenue. In this economy, it’s likely toll revenues aren’t meeting projections either. We’re in a world of hurt fiscally in Texas, yet the Governor touts Texas’ financial “health” as a basis for his re-election. There’s a crowded field of gubernatorial candidates that need to aggressively expose this financial house of cards that Rick Pery built for generations of Texans to pay-off to Perry’s cronies in the road lobby.
Link to article here.
Texas lawmakers consider higher fuel taxes
Nov. 11, 2009, 11:10AM
EL PASO — Some legislators concerned about how to pay for new highways in Texas suggested looking at increasing the 20 cents a gallon state fuel tax.
Members of the Texas Senate Transportation Committee, who convened in El Paso, said money is lacking to build new roads.
The chairman, Sen. John Carona of Dallas, said Tuesday that Texas is growing but having no money to build more roads and “no more debt that we can issue.”
Carona said the state fuel tax has been the same since 1991.
Texas charges 20 cents for each gallon of gasoline pumped. Motorists also pay about 18 cents a gallon in federal taxes.
Rep. Joe Pickett of El Paso says it’s too early to offer precise figures on how much the state fuel tax might need to be raised.
|5:49 PM Tue, Nov 10, 2009 | Permalink | Yahoo! Buzz
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Pickett said that he and Sen. John Carona, who chairs the Senate's transportation panel, have agreed to bring their committees together next year to lay the groundwork for reaching transportation funding solutions in the 2011 legislative session.
The two tentatively agreed to hold the meeting(s) in Austin next summer, he said.
This is a good sign, if progress is to be made. These two weren't exactly buddies during this year's lawmaking session, but it's clear to both that the state is falling father and farther behind in the race to keep up with roadway demands.
Pickett also said that he agrees with the essence of a new proposal that has been taking shape among transportation advocates from major metro areas. It calls for a statewide gas tax PLUS the option for counties to call elections to raise more locally. Local funds could help metro areas build out their rail transit systems.
Carona was probably the Legislature's strongest advocate for local option in this year's session, but as the session began, he abandoned his earlier call for boosting the statewide gas tax -- I believe for strategic reasons. Recently, Carona renewed his call for a statewide gas tax hike in an email to Texas Monthly's Paul Burka.
Perhaps the ultimate cover is coming from Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, who was quoted this way in a Sept. 17 story in the Houston Chronicle (I can't find a link):
Patrick said he and other state senators who represent sections of Harris County will host a conference of local transportation officials to form a delegation that will push for transportation improvements in the Houston region. A top priority will be the U.S. 290 project."Transportation is not a partisan issue," Patrick said. "No one likes sitting in traffic."
One decision facing lawmakers is the need to generate additional revenue for state transportation projects, he said.
One legislative measure Patrick said he supports is a slight increase to the state's gas tax, and then an annual increase of one penny. The local-option tax proposed in the 2009 legislative session is not a good option, he said. That tax would be enacted in specific cities and counties only if voters approved the measure in an election, and proceeds from the additional tax generated through fuel sold in the boundaries of the specified area would go toward funding local transportation projects.
"I do not want to charge people more to buy gas in Harris County than a bordering county," Patrick said. "I don't want the county to pay the penalty. I want the whole state involved in the process."
Patrick said in addition to pushing for new transportation-funding options, the Harris County delegation must send a message to TxDOT that the reconstruction of U.S. 290 must be placed at the top of that state agency's list of priorities. He said Harris County is continually "beaten to the punch by the Dallas delegation because we are not as well-organized."