A sign of cowardice

Posted in Around The State, Taxes, Transportation at 6:00 am by wcnews

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Instead of raising the gas tax, and paying for roads the way we used to, Sen. Ogden wants to pass a constitutional amendment that will allow voters to vote on whether or on they want to raise the gas tax to pay off the debt for roads we’ve already built. Via Peggy Fikac at the San Antonio Express-News, Proposal gives voters a say on gas-tax increase.

The Bryan Republican (Sen. Ogden) isn’t proposing a straight-ahead state gas-tax increase. Instead, he plans to offer an amendment to the Texas Constitution to say lawmakers can raise the gas tax a few cents a gallon to pay off debt service for road bonds financed through the highway fund.

The proposed amendment, which Ogden plans to push in the coming regular legislative session, would require a two-thirds vote from lawmakers plus voter approval statewide.

“Going with a constitutional amendment does a couple of things. It provides some political cover for people who don’t want to be responsible for raising taxes, and it gives the voters a legitimate option: If you want us to continue to borrow money to improve the highways, this is how we propose to pay for it,” Ogden said. “And whatever their answer is, I’d accept.”

Ogden’s idea is another sign of the seriousness of the money problems facing transportation, with the gas-tax-fueled highway fund projected to run out of money for new projects in 2012.

The increase would apply only to Proposition 14 bonds, which are paid off by the highway fund. The Texas Department of Transportation has authority to issue $6 billion in such bonds; it has issued $4.6 billion.

According to TxDOT, the state is expected to pay $272.5 million from the $6.45 billion highway fund for debt service in the 2011 fiscal year and nearly $290 million in 2012. Between 2013 and 2032, debt service for the bonds will cost more than $400 million a year.

The 20-cent-a-gallon state motor-fuels tax hasn’t been raised since 1991; efforts to increase it have been seen as politically risky. Each penny yields about $155 million, with one-fourth going to education. Ogden would propose having the extra pennies fund only debt.

Ogden’s idea is not a sign of seriousness, Ogden’s idea is a sign of cowardice. Not only that but he wants to lay the blame off on voters instead of taking it on himself. Oh how we long for the day when we had real leaders in Texas. Leadership means sometimes you have to stand up and do what’s right and unpopular, consequences be damned. Trying to hide the GOP’s neglect of Texas highways since taking control of our state’s government, and attempting to lay the responsibility of paying for their neglect on the taxpayers, is anything but. Hopefully voters would reject such shenanigans. Sen. Ogden if raising taxes is what you want to do then offer a “straight up” tax increase.

If Ogden’s fairy tale amendment was to pass in the next legislative session, there wouldn’t even be a vote on this until November 2011. So the money wouldn’t be available until 2012 at the earliest. No word in the article about what would happen if it didn’t pass.

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