We haven’t had a choice about how to pay for transportation in Texas for almost two decades. Our current Gov. Rick Perry, will not sign a gas tax increase. What Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would do, like most things in her campaign, is anyone’s guess. Hank Gilbert will go back to how we used to pay for roads. The other Democrats are still pondering what they would do if elected.
Here at EOW we’ve been calling for raising and indexing the gas tax for years now – just see the archives. That doesn’t mean no tolls. Our philosophy is that our statewide funding of transportation should be through a statewide gas tax indexed to inflation. Voters can hold those responsible, their elected legislators and governor, if they don’t like that plan. Tolls are a good option, locally and in specific cases with local voter approval, but are not a fair and economically feasible option to fund our statewide system.
This is all a preface to what’s being said since Gilbert released his plan at the end on October. Since he released his plan, on raising the gas tax, and indexing it to inflation many seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. A week later the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition released their plan which includes raising and indexing the statewide gas tax, Early look at new Texas transportation plan. It included this key piece of wisdom
Anything like this happens only if the governor — whoever it is — gets behind it.
And it’s unlikely Gov. Perry being reelected again will see his reelection as nothing less than voters sanctioning his policies which include his transportation policies. Nothing will change on this front without a new governor, and more than likely, a strong Democratic governor.
And yesterday we learned that the two legislative transportation committee chairs may be getting on board with a gas tax too, (including possible cover on the right from GOP state Sen. Dan Patrick), Carona, Pickett to hold joint committee meetings.
That’s what Joe Pickett, House Transportation Committee chairman, told me this afternoon.
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.
“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.
It’s becoming more and more obvious, to more and more people every day, that if we want more and better roads,that raising the gas tax is the best choice. Lleaders can step forward and lead the people on this issue. A fair plan, like the one Gilbert has proposed is where we need to go. The neglect and toll/CDA shenanigans of the last 10 years must end, it’s not the way for Texas. And in 2010 Texans will finally be able to choose, taxes or tolls.