Saturday, April 07, 2007

"Index the gas tax to the Highway Index rather than the Consumer Price Index."


Gutsy hike in gas tax belongs on the table


San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2007

The growing traffic congestion in Texas is a multipronged problem that cannot be solved by one policy.

At a time when toll roads appear to be state leadership's primary answer to the dilemma, a bill proposed by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, has merit.

The legislation would index the gas tax to the Highway Cost Index, or the cost of highway construction over time.

According to Carona's office, the bill by 2030 would generate about $16 billion in gas tax revenue — or 31/2 times more than the current gas tax would.

Not only would more money be available for transportation infrastructure, consumers would pay less over time, according to Carona's office.

The cost to the typical driver in 2030 would be an additional $21 per month, compared to an additional $100 in toll and additional fuel costs if the gas tax remains static.

Texas drivers have gotten a cheaper-than-warranted ride for too long. The gas tax, a pairing of 18.4 cents in federal taxes and 20 cents in state taxes, has not been raised since 1991.

Tax bills must originate in the House. Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, has proposed a similar bill that indexes the tax to the Consumer Price Index, which rises more slowly than the HCI.

Both Carona and Krusee chair their respective transportation committees.

Lawmakers should seriously consider pursuing legislation that indexes the gas tax to the highway index rather than the consumer index.

Something must be done about the growing congestion on Texas roadways.

Toll roads are one of the cornerstones of Gov. Rick Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor, a web of roads, railroads and communications and utilities lines scrawled across the state.

In some cases, privatized toll roads make sense. They provide upfront funding to build the necessary infrastructure. The speed this method can bring to launching a project is a crucial asset as the state falls farther behind its roadways needs.

But toll roads should by no means be the only tool the state uses to relieve pressure on state highways and byways.

An indexed gas tax should receive a fair trial.

© 2007 San Antonio Express-News:

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