Tom Warne Report, 15 March 2013
AUSTIN – Transportation advocates are teaming up with tea party activists in Texas to push for a dedicated source of revenue for building roads, and criticizing “fairy-tale budgeting” they blame for the $31 billion in debt for state roads racked up over the past decade.
San Antonio anti-toll road organizer Terri Hall said the group intends to fight for legislation that earmarks state vehicle sales tax revenue to road work, which would over time send $250 million a year to the Texas Department of Transportation budget. She said by relying on tolls, “Texans will not be able to get to work or get their kids to school without paying $10 or more a day to get across town.”
The coalition follows the same priority of business groups in Texas, which are also pressing for more road funding, possibly through higher vehicle registration fees.
Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond said his group is a major advocate of toll roads as the best solution for both maintaining old roads and building new ones.
“There is not a willingness to tax people,” at the level to fully pay for roads, he said. The Association is in favor of “all of the above” when it comes to potential road funding options, Hammond said, although he noted that the vehicle sales tax revenue goes to fund other state government operations.
Tea party activist JoAnn Fleming said Gov. Rick Perry could pull funding from budgets for Texas Enterprise Fund, Emerging Technology Fund and the state’s Major Events Fund, which gives economic incentives to entice businesses to Texas.
Gov. Perry’s office says the administration’s solution is using funding from the Rainy Day Fund for transportation projects and ending diversions from the State Highway Fund.