AUSTIN – The Texas Public Policy Foundation criticized the Texas Senate's decision today to tie the future of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to the establishment of new local option taxes and fees in several Texas metropolitan areas.
The Senate tacked key elements of its failed local-option transportation bill, SB 855, onto the TxDOT sunset bill, HB 300. The provisions direct TxDOT to approve several metropolitan planning organizations for "urban passenger rail demonstration projects." Those regions would then be able to vote to enact an additional local gasoline tax of up to 10 cents per gallon, an additional mobility fee on vehicle registration of up to $60, and an additional driver's license fee of up to $24.
"The sunset process exists to make Texas government leaner and more responsive to its citizens," said Justin Keener, the Foundation's Vice President of Policy and Communications. "The Texas Senate hijacked that process to allow for taxes to be raised under the guise of a ‘demonstration' project. What it demonstrates is that the legislature is taking the easy way out by authorizing new taxes and fees, rather than making tough decisions to prioritize spending."
The Foundation offered an alternative solution, identified in its research whereby existing sales tax capacity and overspending at the local level could be redirected towards the transportation "crisis," along with more than $1 billion in diverted state transportation revenue.
"For all the talk about improving accountability in our transportation system, the local-option provision simply throws money at a problem," he said. "This bill rolls back accountability. The projects built with new taxes don't have to be shown to reduce traffic congestion. It defies logic the legislature would authorize billions in new taxes without including a measurable performance objective."
Last fall, the Texas Public Policy Foundation released, "Competitive States: Texas v. California," a report that found that Texas' economic strength was largely due to a lower overall tax burden, spending discipline, and pro-growth economic policies. Keener urged the Texas Legislature not to ignore those economic advantages in the last week of the legislative session.
"Productive citizens are fleeing states like California and New York because of the suffocating tax bills they have to pay for bloated government," Keener said. "Now is not the time for Texas to lay out the ‘GO AWAY' mat."
Justin Keener is Vice President of Policy and Communications for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
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