Why Should Tolls Trump Traditional Gas Tax?
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
November 5, 2009
When I first became acquainted with the toll issue on the MPO, I saw a band of toll-protesting citizens lead by Terri Hall coming in to one of our meetings. These middle-class citizens were likely college educated, had new cars and lived in the nicer neighborhoods. What they didn't have was access to the channels of power in the wake of a crisis. The crisis was imposition of toll roads on 281 North by their Governor, Rick Perry, and the first of many toll roads planned for Bexar County!
Perhaps what is more important than to toll or not to toll is the question of the damage done to government "by, for and of the people" in these fights. At the October 26, 2009 MPO meeting the "highway lobby" could not have been more powerfully displayed than it was when thirteen members of the MPO, six of them elected officials, voted to toll our county including 281 North. This was after hearing 95 citizens to be heard testify against tolls with another 400 cheering them on, while about six toll-promoting citizens testified for tolling!
This tolling regime is done against the backdrop of a huge question as to its financial necessity.
From the October 21, 2009 Burkablog, a blog run by Paul Burka, senior executive editor for Texas Monthly quotes State Senator John Carona:
"Look, folks. Paul Burka is right on this one. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, I can attest that the only near-term answer to the transportation funding dilemma we are facing is to raise and index the gas tax. Stopping the diversion of gas tax revenues for other legislative purposes, as is long overdue, will not alone solve the problem.
"Calls from naysayers indicating that the tax would have to be raised to $1.50/gal are ill-informed. The Governor's Business Council, a blue ribbon panel of Perry invitees, told the Legislature over three years ago that the shortage of roadway dollars (estimated then at $60-90 billion dollars, depending upon whomever you believe) could be corrected by a modest (ten cents per gallon) gas tax increase, indexed to annual inflation in highway construction costs, and then bonded against. Those who speak otherwise share misinformation and are sending us into a massive network of privately-operated toll roads which will cost the average driver exponentially more than simply raising the gas tax.
"The motor fuels (gas) tax is a credible source of transportation funding for at least the next 20 years. Based upon careful study, it is by far the most fiscally conservative way to build our Texas roads. The persons who most often criticize it are politicians doing their level best to avoid any sort of "tax increase" on their political record. Where, fellow drivers, is the statesmanship in that?"