There’s an obvious problem and an obvious solution regarding the neglect of our transportation infrastructure in Texas. This is from a recent report from Texas Good Roads called “Cost of Doing Nothing“. Make no mistake this group will certainly profit from more spending on roads, they lobby The Lege to build roads.
The Biggest Transportation Cost Isn’t the Gas Tax. It’s the Hidden Costs No One Talks About.
By now, Texans know a lot about gas taxes, tolls, and registration fees. But what about the hidden costs no one talks about? The ones that are left to the consumer, to absorb? The truth is, Texans already spend more than they should on Texas highways. By failing to invest in highways, the cost is shifted to consumers in the form of wasted time stuck in traffic, damage to vehicles, accelerated tire wear, and increased likelihood of being in a serious accident. These cost Texans across the state thousands of dollars more than any highway funding increases proposed by state leaders. To save money, we must invest in our Texas highways now
Be that as it may, more money is needed. Here’s how they, along with state Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), framed the problem recently. The problem is costing Texas families a lot of money annually and that will continue to go up if the neglect continues, On the road to ruined.
Rep. Drew Darby likened himself jokingly to a modern day Paul Revere warning Texans about potholes, deteriorating asphalt and no money to fix them two years from now.At an educational program Tuesday morning, “The Cost of Doing Nothing,” hosted in San Angelo by Texas Good Roads Transportation Association, the state representative reached out to local elected officials and residents to outline the future of Texas roads — which he called one of the state’s most important issues.
“These are not Republican roads and Democratic bridges,” Darby said. “This is not a political issue … We all use the roads, and how do we pay for that?”
Lawrence Olsen, executive vice president of Texas Good Roads/Transportation Association, began the presentation with a video outlining some of the presentation’s key points — safety implications, lack of future funds and a higher cost for driving on bad roads.
Darby said borrowed money for Texas roads — $17 billion in bonds that now with interest will cost the state $21 billion — has been spent or committed to projects.
In 2014 and beyond there will be no money in the state budget for new roads in Texas, he said, and Texas will be doing good just to meet the $3.5 billion cost of maintaining its existing road systems.
Altering the gas tax, which has stayed the same since 1991, would be “politically untenable today” because of the visceral reaction the public has to tax increases, Darby said.
Deteriorating roads, he estimated, cost the average Texas household $1,500 a year on wasted energy, lost productivity and additional repairs to vehicles.
“If we do nothing and keep our current funding structure, that cost will rise to $5,300 a year,” he said, basing that on a 25-year span.
One example of how to lower that cost and raise money for roadwork could be increasing vehicle registration fees. The average fee to register a vehicle in Texas is $52 — an amount Darby said places the state 44th in the nation.
He estimated an additional $5 a month to register a vehicle could amount to $1.2 billion in additional funds.
“I don’t look at that as a tax,” he said. “I look at that as an investment in our transportation infrastructure future.”
Call it what you will representative, tax or fee, either way you’re going to need to bring in more money from the residents of Texas to pay for roads and maintenance. The fundamental cowardice and lack of leadership that so many elected officials in our state have shown over the last several decades on raising taxes for much needed public spending like transportation, education, and health care, is appalling.
Beyond that, with the information from the report, it’s very easy to make a logical argument for more transportation investment. Right now the neglect of funding our transportation infrastructure is costing the average household $1,500/year. Let’s, for the sake of argument, say we raise the gas tax 10 cents. How much would that cost the average household? No sure exactly, depends on how much gas a household uses. Let’s say your household used 100 gallons/week. That would cost your household and extra $520/year, (100x52x.10), much less then the current $1,500/month it is now costing. By that math a household would have to use around 300 gallons of gas per month to match what it is currently costing them.
Best I can tell from the report, (click here and select funding tab), a 10 cent raise in the gas tax would bring in around ($840 million/yr.), where Darby’s $60 annual increase per vehicle registration will bring in $1.2 billion. (Keep in mind that 25% of any state gas tax increase is constitutionally mandated to go to education funding).
But this is where we are, some people still think that those who currently have the power in Texas can be persuaded by arguments like this.
Lynn Shipley, unit director of the H-E-B supermarket in San Angelo, agreed that politics should be taken out of the equation so the state can focus on fixing the problem.
“Communicating and educating — they’re doing the right thing by getting out and sharing how important this is.” Shipley said. “I do not believe there is any taxpayer who would not contribute to the cause as long as it guaranteed their money is going to where they were told it was going.”
Really?! How naive, that’ll never happen. Politics has never worked like that in Texas and no one should expect it to start any time soon. The regressives we currently running our government can’t make the argument that needs to be made. How can anyone expect elected officials that believe government is the problem to use government as a solution? They don’t, and it’s high time Texans and business leaders in this state understand that they won’t. Darby has admitted as much.
Shipley has it all wrong. It’s only about politics for the regressives and they have no intention of changing that as long as they’re in office. This issue has been around now for at least a decade, and nothing has been done to seriously address it. I’m not sure why anyone would think that electing more people who are right-wing and ideologically opposed to government would use it to fix any problem in this state.