Who will lead Texas?

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Election 2008, HD-52, Transportation, Uncategorized at 11:07 am by wcnews

In an article yesterday in the DMN we were once again told about Texas’ “long-term road-funding crisis“, and the fact that “[s]tate transportation officials are poised to issue billions of dollars in debt.” The first part of the article lays out in detail how grave those in the Texas transportation “game” say our state’s transportation finance system is in.

Meeting last week in Austin, Texas Transportation Commission members said the bond program won’t fix a basically busted system – and could make things worse if the Legislature doesn’t eventually provide new tax funds.

“The system for funding TxDOT is fatally flawed,” said Ned Holmes of Houston, one of five members of the Texas Transportation Commission that runs the department.

That’s sounds terrible! Good thing that, as Gov. Perry says, Texas’ economy is strong. Surely we have the money available then to build roads, right? Wrong!

But while lawmakers, the governor and TxDOT all seem to agree Texas needs more money for roads, consensus on a solution beyond more borrowing has proven devilishly difficult to reach.

But our current three-headed GOP monster, (Gov., Lt. Gov., Speaker), are clueless about what to do beyond toll roads, and more debt. And, of course, the governor’s press secretary makes a wild claim on the gas tax with no basis in fact.

One camp argues that, of course TxDOT is going broke, given that state gasoline taxes have remained flat since 1991, at 20 cents per gallon. However, efforts to raise the tax rate have been dead in the water for years.

“As far as the gas tax goes, there is simply no appetite in the Legislature for that. None at all,” said Allison Castle, press secretary for Gov. Rick Perry, said. “To make a real difference, you’d have to raise it 50 to 55 cents per gallon. Raising it a nickel or two would be just giving false hope.”

Anyone who’s been paying attention over the last several years knows that raising the statewide gas tax by 8 - 10 cents and indexing it to inflation is all that’s needed. We also need to keep in mind that this debt will have to paid off with taxes, which means money will need to be shifted from something else to pay for this new debt. It would be so much easier if they would just use the gas tax, instead of adding so much more future debt. But, as EOW has said many, many times, getting something like that done would take a leader. Which Texas currently doesn’t have in any of it’s power positions, and we will continue to pay until we do.

This election cycle voters in Texas have the ability to change one of those leaders. By electing 5 more Democrats to the Texas House, a new Democratic Speaker of the House can take control. And take the lead on this and every other issue facing Texas. All tax bills must start in the house, and once it passes the House it moves to the Senate. That would put enormous pressure on Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and the rest of the GOP members of the Senate. And if it passed the Senate it forces Gov. Perry’s hand. All the while keeping in mind statewide GOP politics heading into the 2010 elections, and the tension that would add to issues like this.

But again Democrats can’t force these kinds of issues to the forefront, that are so needed and good for Texans, unless we take back the Texas House. And that starts here, in Williamson County, with Diana Maldonado.

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