The Texas Legislature’s point man on transportation funding says Texas motorists need to understand that a higher gas tax would be a more 'open and transparent' way of dealing head on with the state's transportation crisis than the 'congestion tax' that motorists are currently paying every day.
"I think we need to revert to pay as your go," State Re. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) told the San Antoio Mobility Coalition. "Nine times members of the Legislature have raised the gasoline tax to pay for our transportation infrastructure, but that hasn't happened since 1991. Since then, however, we have said we don't want to deal with the open and visible tax, we would rather pay an invisible tax."
He says every Texas motorist is paying $1500 a year in a 'congestion tax,' when you add up the costs of gasoline wasted, car damage, and the cost of lost productivity due to highway congestion.
"Given the same amount of funding, in the year 2015, that figure will rise to $5300," he said.
He says a hike in the gas tax would cost about $6 a month, but would lead to 'investments' that could substantially reduce that 'congestion tax.'
Lawmakers over the past several years have rejected attempts to raise the gasoline tax, but Darby said borrowing money and racking up debt is 'not the conservative way to go.' He said taxpayers are now paying debt service on $17 billion borrowed for highways, and that is money that 'cannot be put into asphalt.'
Darby also said repeated calls to 'end the diversions' of gasoline tax money to other programs would solve the underlying problem, saying those 'other programs' include the DPS, and nobody who calls for an 'end to diversions' has any alternatives on how to fund that agency.
Darby said the worst thing the state can do when it comes to transportation funding is to do exactly what has been done over the past two decades.
"Given the same transportation funding and given the same population growth, the commute between Georgetown and Austin will be three hours," he said.