Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"The rise in fuel prices is an uncomfortable necessity."

Plan to repeal gas tax irresponsible pandering

Legislators wave a magic wand over the state budget as highway financing falls further behind.


San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2007

Lawmakers have considered thousands of bills and amendments during the 80th session of the Texas Legislature. Among those measures are some truly bad proposals. One of the worst is an amendment offered by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio.

Martinez Fischer's rider to a motor fuels taxes bill would repeal the state's 20-cent-per-gallon levy on gasoline for 90 days. In a dismal display of political pandering, his House colleagues passed the measure 118-16.

While they're at it, the representatives might want to sprinkle pixie dust on the state budget.

Temporarily suspending the gasoline tax will cost the state between $500 million and $700 million. Martinez Fischer's solution is to fill the highway and education funding hole created by this cut with dollars from a hypothetical budget surplus — hypothetical, because legislators are relying on rosy estimates of anticipated revenues from a new and never-collected business activity tax.

Martinez Fisher isn't the first to call dibs on the presumed surplus. Lawmakers have already set aside $4 billion for additional property tax cuts. Gov. Rick Perry wants even more. So in this sense, the gas tax amendment only makes a bad situation worse.

But the House vote is especially irresponsible considering the deplorable state of financing for public roadways. The Legislature already is filching from a tax intended for highway improvements to pay for public education. A reality-based Legislature should be talking about raising revenue for highway construction, not eliminating it.

The rise in fuel prices is an uncomfortable necessity.

Toying with an unsustainable and unsound gas tax rescission is a populist fantasy.

© 2007 San Antonio Express-News:

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