Yesterday, the Houston Chroniclereported that House Speaker Joe Straus “said the next Texas budget proposed by the House will dedicate all the money from the State Highway Fund to transportation.” Welcome news indeed, and if the Legislature is successful in ending the diversion of transportation dollars to non-transportation projects, then it will have accomplished a truth-in-taxation reform that’s long been advocated by fiscal conservatives (see here, here, here, and here).
Moreover, ending diversions from the State Highway Fund, also known as Fund 6, will mean more money made available for roads, highways, and the like. It’s estimated that ending diversions completely could boost transportation funding by as much as $1.3 billion in the coming budgetary cycle.
No doubt that ending diversions is a step in the right direction; but if the Legislature wants to take its truth-in-taxation efforts a step further then it should end the practice of diverting gas tax dollars for public education purposes.
Under the current system, the Texas Constitution dedicates “one-fourth of the motor fuels tax to the Available School Fund,” according to the Legislative Budget Board. In doing so, this diverts $1.6 billion per biennium in state gasoline tax revenues away from roads and into public education coffers. And while public education is a priority of the Legislature, it should, arguably, be funded out of General Revenue funds and not by motorists.
Speaker Straus is right to aim for ending the use of transportation dollars for non-transportation projects. Let’s just hope that he and other lawmakers are willing to apply this principle beyond just Fund 6.
Source: Legislative Budget Board