Watch out, the Texas Association of Business wants to build a fast-lane into your wallet. These are the same folks who were last heard pushing higher gas taxes. Coming into 2013, they want to jack up your vehicle registration fees.
TAB president Bill Hammond was quoted by KLBJ radio saying he wants to nearly double registration fees, thereby diverting $50 a year more from your wallet into the state’s unreformed transportation system. Nearly half of the road-and-bridge construction fund dollars are currently diverted by the legislature to other purposes.
Rather than address fund-diversions, TAB is making a push to pinch more of your money.
But taking more money from your pocket to put in the hands of contractors isn’t new for TAB. They have been pushing to raise gasoline taxes for several years, but have been thwarted by conservatives. Their chief advocate for raiding your wallet to fund unaccountable spending, State Rep. Vicki Truitt of Tarrant County, was soundly defeated in the 2012 GOP primary.
Before entertaining ideas of raising taxes and increasing fees, legislators should look more carefully for improvements in spending decisions and ending diversions.
State Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), a confidant of current House Speaker Joe Straus, told KLBJ he was interested in the discussion about raising the registration fee, but sounded cautious about embracing it.
Lawmakers should absolutely look at how we fund road construction, and how those dollars are spent. The fixed-price gasoline tax is an antiquated revenue system, as cars become more fuel-efficient but still wear down the roads. Automatic tax increases – like indexing the current gas-tax system to inflation – must be rejected; if future legislators want to raise taxes, then they should have to cast that vote every time.
The spending system must be addressed, as well. (For the record, the Texas Department of Transportation is not the same thing as transportation spending; they are just one piece of the overall puzzle, and indeed their leadership has been trying to reform their internal spending decisions.)
The legislature’s diversion of dollars out of road-and-bridge construction is bad enough, but how lawmakers assigns even the “legitimate” use of the transportation dollars needs to be re-examined as well. We find transportation dollars – co-mingled federal, state, regional and local – being used for parks, mass-transit boondoggles and public art.
Raising gas taxes or arbitrarily hiking vehicle registration fees isn’t a solution, it’s a cop-out.