ACTION ALERT: To the residents of San Angelo and Big Spring Regarding Texas Transportation Funding
As we covered earlier, the dire state of Texas' transportation funding is quickly developing into a situation that certain Republican elected officials will exploit as an excuse to raise taxes and fees, raid the Rainy Day Fund, and make similar non-conservative policy decisions. What's happening here is no different than the phony outrage promoted by the White House over the federal sequestration, where they threatened funding cuts to "vital services" if Republicans couldn't agree to raise taxes. Many who bought into the sequester hype overlooked the fact that while the federal government was supposedly starved for revenue to fund even the military and border security, they still somehow had enough to give Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood $250 million, fund almost a million dollar study on the sexuality of snails, and finance a $27 million project to teach people in Morocco how to make pottery.
We have the same situation in Texas, and just like at the federal level, we don't need to raise taxes or create new revenue streams in order to close the funding gap. All we need to do is spend our money wisely and make sure we fund the first things first. This means transportation, as a core function of the government, should be high on the list of funding priorities. And we should never have to fund transportation by going into debt whenever our budget also includes items such as $25 million to Formula One Racing, $250,000 to algae farming, or $434,253 to a film starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.
The Texas Patriots PAC, along with many other groups, has made the point that the easiest way to close the transportation funding gap would be to end diversions of the fuel tax revenue away from transportation projects, and to dedicate the revenue from the vehicle sales tax to the State Highway Fund. This would secure our funding for transportation without raising taxes or fees and without raiding the Rainy Day Fund.
Unfortunately, lawmakers are considering doing the exact opposite. Representative Drew Darby, who happens to be the Vice Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has proposed the following series of bills, all of which are scheduled for a public hearing on Wednesday, April 10:
- HB 3664 would increase vehicle registration fees by $30, double the motorcycle registration fee, and increase the commercial vehicle registration fee by $60.
- HB 3665 would create a State Infrastructure Bank for transportation to be funded by transfers from the Rainy Day Fund. Governor Perry has endorsed this bill, along with the corresponding Senate bill, SB 1632, by Democrat Chuy Hinojosa. Earlier in the session Darby proposed another bill to raid the Rainy Day Fund, HB 19, which took $3.7 billion from the fund to be used for water and transportation, at Governor Perry's urging.
- HB 3666 would impose a $15 "Public Safety Fee", which would be collected at the time of vehicle inspection, to replace some of the fuel tax revenue which is currently being diverted into the Texas Department of Public Safety from the Highway Fund.
If you live in Representative Darby's district, be sure to call his office to let him know you support conservative approaches to transportation funding.
San Angelo office: (325) 658-7313
Capitol office: (512) 463-0331
Suggested script: "Please fund transportation with no new revenue or increased fees, and without raiding the Rainy Day Fund. Fill the $4 billion gap by ending diversions of the fuel tax for purposes other than transportation, as well as dedicating toward transportation the revenue from the vehicle sales tax."
If you do not live in his district, but know someone who does, please inform them about this very important topic. Rep. Darby's district covers Coke, Concho, Glasscock, Howard, Irion, Reagan, Runnels, Sterling, and Tom Green Counties and includes the cities of San Angelo and Big Spring.