Nothing justifies a 300% gas tax hike
Let’s do a math lesson…TxDOT’s state gas tax revenues have gone up 178% over the last 20 years (and that’s adjusted for inflation and population). Just since Rick Perry took office, their budget has more than doubled (gone up 117%) WITHOUT RAISING OUR TAXES. We’ve had repeated state budget surpluses and are on track for even bigger surpluses in 2007. TxDOT has $7 billion (that’s BILLION with a “B”) in mobility and revenue bonds right now today to build roads and accelerate projects. These guys are flush with cash and they have the audacity to promote tax increases! It’s the wasteful spending and the building of more expensive toll roads (ie – 281 original 10 lane non-toll plan, $100 million, as a 16 lane toll road, over $300 million) that are sucking up all our hard-earned taxes. We’re NOT taxed too little, they’re spending too much.
Then consider we currently pay 38 cents a gallon (20 cents for the state tax) and they want to double that, even increase it over 300% if it’s closer to $1.09 increase. Also consider nearly $10 billion in our state gas taxes have been diverted to frivolous earmarks, that every single toll road costs more to build and maintain than non-toll roads, and that even Rick Perry admits their dollar figures they call “needs” are actually “wish lists” comprised if money were no object (which clearly money is always a factor), and it’s not hard to see these figures are completely bankrupt of rationality.
What on earth do they think they need to build? We’ve already completed our entire interstate highway system and our state highway system, and San Antonio is ranked number 5 in the country in lane miles of highway per person (we don’t lack roads, we lack proper planning and development strategies, see Pasley editorial here). If anything we should be cutting back our road building, not increasing it.
Also, their new gas tax figures often include the lost revenue from tolls if they switch to non-toll projects. For instance, up in Austin, their Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) first comparison of tolls versus gas tax increase came up with a 2-3 cent hike. Their second pass was to TxDOT’s liking and factored in the lost toll revenue if the projects were converted back to non-toll highways and claimed the tax hike would be more like 17 cents a gallon. That’s still a FAR cry from $1.09 a gallon! You’d think the Express-News “story” would include these FACTS rather than grant a stitch of ink to such blatant scare tactics by the pro-tollers in their attempt to beat back our obvious momentum in defeating Perry’s version of toll roads.
“They can’t win with the truth or on the merits of their arguments, instead they try to spew blatant falsehoods and propaganda to prop up their schemes,” notes Terri Hall, Regional Director of San Antonio Toll Party.com.
Bottom line: even at these OUTLANDISH figures, the gas tax system (currently 1-3 cents a mile) is still far less expensive than tolls of 25 cents up to $1.00 a mile (per TxDOT’s own studies), especially toll rates in the hands of a private company using non-compete agreements.
Anytime there’s an increase in the cost of transportation it’s bad for the economy. With the cost of building and maintaining roads going up 30%, and if you take their argument that they don’t have the money to maintain our current road system, then why on earth build even more that we can’t sustain?
Clearly the road lobby is pushing to build more roads, especially toll roads that require a larger footprint than non-toll roads (thus more to maintain as well), and continue this cycle of tax and spend.
“Enough will NEVER be enough for these hogs at the trough and WE the taxpayers have to demand accountability, sensible, fiscally constrained transportation planning, and insist on a sustainable transportation system that won’t bankrupt consumers and businesses alike, ” insists Hall.
Let’s not forget last year’s federal highway bill with more than 6,000 earmarks including a $223 million bridge to nowhere in Alaska and a parking garage for a private university (University of Incarnate Word). There’s plenty of money in gas taxes, so much they can divert hundreds of millions if not billions to frivolous pet projects. Seems the overwhelming public consensus is to stop the practice of diverting our current transportation funds to pork barrel spending and we could expand and maintain our highways just fine.