REALLOCATE GAS TAX, NOT HIKE IT

January 2, 2008

The gas tax should return to its original purpose of funding the building and maintaining of roads and bridges, and cut special-interest projects that do not meet this criterion, says Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business.

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, only 60 percent of federal gas taxes are spent on highways.  Further: 

  • The 2005 federal highway bill allocated nearly $24 billion for 6,500 pork-barrel projects, including the $315-million Alaskan Bridge to nowhere, $4 million for bike paths in California and $4 million worth of pedestrian improvements in Georgia.
  • The 2008 transportation bill seems to be on the same track by allocating $2.2 billion in earmarks. 
  • In addition, 30 percent of the fund will go toward public transit and 10 percent will be earmarked for projects such as bike paths and nature trails.

Texas isn't doing well either, says Hammond.  Revenue raised by the state gas tax is divided for two uses:

  • The Texas Constitution dedicates one-fourth of the collection to the Available School Fund. 
  • The remainder is placed into the State Highway Fund, established to pay for construction and maintenance of public roads.
  • Yet at least four other state agencies, not counting the Texas Department of Transportation, receive appropriations from it.
  • In the state budget established for the 2008-2009 biennium, estimates show that more than $1.5 billion in diversions from the state gas tax will pay for items that do not build new roads or maintain those already in use.

While many lawmakers argue that the only option available for building new roadways is to raise the gas tax, a far better solution would be to prioritize spending, says Hammond.

Source: Bill Hammond, "Reallocate gas tax, not hike it," Waco Tribune-Herald, December 31, 2007.

 

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