Lawmakers now say it will take between $4 billion and $5 billion a year to simply maintain the state’s crumbling road system, and state lawmakers are considering the possibility of a hike in the gas tax, 1200 WOAI’s Chris Fox reports.
The state gas tax increase is being debated at the same time as the Obama Administration is pushing for a 12 cent a gallon increase in the federal gas tax.
State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) also says toll roads ‘have to be one of the tools in the tool box.’
The first goal of lawmakers is to push for the passage of Proposition One on the November ballot. It would divert $1.3 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund, replenished by the booming oil and gas industry, to roads.
“If that doesn’t pass, then the gap gets bigger,” said Dave Ellis of the Texas Transportation Institute. “It is somewhere in between $4 billion and $7 billion.”
Many Tea Party groups oppose taking money from the Rainy Day Fund for ongoing expenses, saying that money needs to be reserved so Texas can handle emergencies like hurricanes on its own, without being beholden to the federal government.
Ellis says $4 billion a year is needed to ‘keep the roads from getting worse.’
And Bill Hammond of the Texas Association of Business says it is a problem which cannot be delayed.
“The further we delay the maintenance of roads, the more expensive maintenance becomes,” Hammond said.
Conservatives say before any taxes should be raised, the Legislature needs to stop ‘diversions,’ including gas tax money that goes for programs like the DPS, as well as transportation funding that goes for vanity projects like light rail, trolleys and streetcars, bike lanes, and other transportation alternatives. They say 100% of all gas tax money should go for road building and maintenance.
Calls fore more toll roads are also being made in the shadow of major financial problems facing the company that operates the State Highway 130 toll road. Moody’s says it is ‘dangerously close to default’ and its problems are liable to discourage other private investors from getting involved in Public Private Partnerships to build more toll roads.