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April 2, 2007 (512) 463-0300

CARONA CALLS FOR GAS TAX INDEXING

PHOTO
Senator John Carona talks about the rising cost of transportation construction and why Texas needs to index its gas tax.

(AUSTIN) -- The state could soon find itself without enough money for new highway construction, said Senator John Carona of Dallas Monday, unless it turns to new options for generating infrastructure revenue. Carona called on House members to consider legislation to increase the state gas tax, which has stayed at 20 cents per gallon since 1991. The Texas Constitution mandates that any bills addressing tax issues originate in the House, and Carona says many House members aren't eager to vote for another tax bill after passing last session's business tax. "I understand their aversion to taking up another tax bill," he said, "but we're behind the curve with transportation funding. I'm convinced that the political repercussions of doing nothing are far greater than addressing this problem head on."

Carona, who chairs the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, says that the current transportation funding system means that most, if not all, future road construction would be toll roads. That cost, in terms of toll rates, would be higher for the average commuter than a modest gas tax increase. Carona wants to index state gas tax increases to increases in the Highway Cost Index. This would translate to an increase of about $21 per month for most commuters by 2030, Carona estimated, far less than the financial impact of new toll roads. He added that the current system of public/private partnerships that offer up-front concessions for road construction are both short-term in scope and increasingly odious for taxpayers.

Carona believes a gas tax indexing bill has enough support to pass the Senate, and he asked his colleagues in the House to consider some legislation that ties the state gas tax to the rate of inflation. Otherwise, he worries that the state might face a significant transportation crisis in the near future. "We're at a crossroads," he said. "We can either continue along our current, haphazard transportation policy for which the public has shown an increasing distaste, or we can give ourselves an essential tool to create a long-term, responsive transportation plan that will best serve Texas now and in the years to come."

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, April 3, at 11 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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