Lawmakers in Texas are currently searching for a way to close the widening gap in funding needed to repair and maintain the state’s transportation infrastructure.
Proposition One, also known as the “Texas Transportation Funding Amendment,” will be on the November ballot. If approved by voters, the ballot proposition would redirect $1.2 billion annually in oil and gas revenue from the state’s general Rainy Day Fund to support transportation improvements. However, a recent study conducted by David Ellis with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that a $4 billion gap per year would still exist, even if voters approve Proposition One.
Texas has increasingly turned to tolls in order to generate revenue to support the state’s highway projects. There are currently over 20 toll facilities in Texas, with more facilities planned. In addition to contributing revenue, tolls also help ease traffic in notoriously congested areas of Texas. Some plans include converting free HOV lanes into managed toll lanes, which would fluctuate in cost based on traffic congestion, and in certain cases provide discounts for cars with multiple passengers. Other highways would be fully tolled. In addition to state highways, the Texas Turnpike Corporation of Dallas has proposed building a private toll road between Greenville and Wylie, which would be the first of its kind in the Lone Star State if approved.
Toll roads are a contentious issue. State Senator John Carona (R-Dallas) stated that the use of toll roads has allowed lawmakers to avoid raising the state gas tax in order to fund transportation needs, and has caused North Texans to pay more than if the gas tax was raised.
Lawmakers are also currently examining the state’s gas tax, last increased in 1991 to its current rate of 20 cents per-gallon. At a meeting June 24, the State Senate Select Committee on Transportation Funding, Expenditures & Finance discussed several different possibilities, including raising the state fuel tax by a penny (generating an anticipated $116 million); raising the state tax on diesel five cents per-gallon ($142 million); putting the motor-vehicle rental tax back to the Texas Department of Transportation ($220 million); and instituting a $10 auto registration fee ($210 million). State Representative Joe Picket (D- El Paso) is also leading a House Select Committee that will examine solutions to the state’s transportation revenue challenges. The Committee holds their first meeting July 2.