This is long overdue.
Members of the Texas Senate’s Transportation Committee said Tuesday that an increase in the 20-cents-per-gallon state fuel tax may be necessary to overcome a drastic shortage of money for new roads.
“We are in the critical position in this state where we are growing and will need more roads. But we have no money to build them and no more debt that we can issue,” the committee’s chairman, Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, said during a meeting in El Paso.
“The fuel tax has been the same since 1991, and that’s frankly one of the best solutions to the funding shortage we have in our hands.”
“For 20 years, the fuel tax has been the same no matter what. The state is not making a killing on the higher gas prices,” said [State Rep. Joe] Pickett, who chairs the House Transportation Committee. “No matter how much each gallon costs, we still get just 20 cents. That’s why things need to change.”
Pickett said bipartisan support exists for the tax increase, and that could make a campaign to pass it in the Legislature smoother.
I’ve talked about this a lot before, and it’s really simple. If we want TxDOT to be able to meet the state’s transportation needs – building new roads, maintaining existing ones, and now doing some non-road things like high-speed rail, it needs to have a funding source that keeps up with inflation and the growth of the state’s population. A tax that hasn’t increased in 18 years isn’t cutting it, and a statewide network of private toll roads was a lousy alternate solution that has finally died a justifiable death. This is what’s left. I will have a lot more faith in that “bipartisan support” that Pickett speaks of if we have a different Governor in office the next time the Lege meets – Hank Gilbert has explicitly called for a gas tax increase plus an indexing of the tax to inflation to cover our transportation needs, while Tom Schieffer and even KBH would be better on the issue than Rick Perry. It’s a simple choice – do we want to pay for the things we need or not? – but getting there isn’t nearly so simple. Click on for a statement from Hank Gilbert that shows some of that bipartisan support we can hope is still there in fourteen months’ time.
Lawmakers Agree: Gilbert Gas Tax Plan Makes Sense
More Legislators Favoring Plans Similar To Democratic Gov. Candidate Show His Plan Will Work
AUSTIN-Any naysayers who still doubt that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Hank Gilbert’s transportation funding plan is the best solution for Texas should look no farther than recent statements made by Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
“Recent statements by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle show that our plan is the common-sense plan,” Gilbert said. “Our plan will work, and the fact that lawmakers are discussing similar plans shows that I’m the only candidate in this race who can address Texas’ transportation needs head-on, with an honest solution,” Gilbert continued.
On Tuesday, members of the House and Senate’s transportation committees meeting in El Paso suggested that an increase in the gas tax was a viable alternative for transportation funding.
“State Senators John Carona and Dan Patrick-two Republicans, one who fought with me to stop the Trans-Texas Corridor and another who is ideologically my polar opposite in almost every other way-are talking about raising the gas tax being the best solution to the problems we are facing today,” Gilbert continued.
Late last month, Gilbert unveiled a bold, comprehensive transportation reform plan, “Getting Texas Moving Again,” which proposed a modest 8-cent gas tax increase followed by indexing the gas tax to the Highway Cost Index.
Legislators Offer Plans Similar To Gilbert; Agree Gas Tax Is Best Alternative
Many lawmakers in Texas agree that a gasoline tax of some form is the best option for funding Transportation infrastructure in Texas:
STATE SEN. JOHN CARONA (R-DALLAS)
“As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, I can attest that the only near-term answer to the transportation funding dilemma we are facing is to raise and index the gas tax. Stopping the diversion of gas tax revenues for other legislative purposes, as is long overdue, will not alone solve the problem.” (Texas Monthly’s Burka Blog, October 21, 2009. [LINK])
STATE SEN. ELLIOT SHAPLEIGH (D-EL PASO)
“Whether it’s gas tax or local option, the result should be that we have enough money to build roads in communities like El Paso.” (Associated Press, November 12, 2009 [LINK])
STATE SEN. DAN PATRICK (R-HOUSTON)
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. (Dallas Morning News Dallas Transportation Blog, November 10, 2009. [LINK])
STATE REP. JOE PICKETT (D-EL PASO)
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. (Dallas Morning News Dallas Transportation Blog, November 10, 2009. [LINK])
[NOTE: It should be absolutely clear that indicating that Candidate Gilbert and lawmakers cited above are in general agreement on the gas tax increase implies neither that these lawmakers have endorsed Gilbert's plans or that he endorses any of their specific plans.]