Saturday, April 14, 2007

Political will to raise the gas tax 'simply does not exist' in either the Texas House or Senate

Krusee: Gas tax hike needed for new roads


By Daniel K. Lai
Taylor Daily Press
Copyright 2007

With the passage of a toll road moratorium bill in the Texas House and no sign the legislature will let up on it's reluctance to pass a bill raising gas taxes, Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Dist. 52, said he is worried lawmakers are heading in the wrong direction to accommodate Texas' increasing growth.

“My gas tax bill is still sitting in committee. We had a hearing in February but it is obvious to me that the committee won't pass it out and the legislature does not want to increase the gas tax,” Krusee said.

Krusee and Sen. John Carona, a Republican who heads the Senate's transportation panel, said that the state's 20-cents-a-gallon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel should increase yearly, in step with inflation.

“We cannot afford to continue to sit here and do nothing,” Carona said.

Carona said the motor fuels tax was last raised in 1991, but revenue from the tax barely covers the state's maintenance of existing roads causing a backlog of unfunded projects to grow.

It is this factor, Krusee said lawmakers must remain aware of.

“I am worried the legislature is leaving Texas without any ability to build new roads by restricting toll roads and not providing the funding for new roads,” he said.

In a April 2 press conference, Carona said the current gas tax untouched, would bring in only $4.6 billion by 2030, not even enough to maintain roads.

Carona said indexing the gas tax is necessary if the state is to cut back on toll projects.

Indexing the gas tax to consumer inflation - roughly three percent a year - would raise it by 43 cents and bring in almost $10 billion; indexing the gas tax to rising costs of highway construction - seven percent a year - would raise it by 69 cents, and bring in almost $16 billion, he said.

However, Carona said there is no “political will” to raise the gas tax in either the House or Senate.

“It just simply does not exist,” he said.

On Tuesday, in a 137 to 5 vote, the House passed House Bill 1892 effectively putting a two-year freeze on toll project deals. The bill passed with an amendment authored by Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Dist. 99, which allows projects within the boundaries of a regional tollway authority to continue. Krusee voted against the legislation.

Krusee said every day 800 more cars enter an already congested Texas roadway system.

“It's frustrating when the legislature attempts to adopt a moratorium on toll roads and won't look at other resources for roads. I think that is a very dangerous combination,” he said. “For me it's not important how the roads are built but it's extremely important that we keep up with the infrastructure.”

The Senate is expected to hear deliberations on Senate Bill 1267 - an equivalent to the House moratorium bill - later this month.

© 2007 Taylor Daily Press:

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