Earlier today Texas Gov. Rick Perry was on a radio show in Lubbock where he listed “raising the gas tax” as among the options lawmakers might consider when it comes to building roads. That’s a very bad option, as Perry himself has said in recent months. What’s more, it’s an option that shouldn’t be allowed in the room, let alone at the table.

At the Belo debate in Dallas at the end of January, Gov. Perry said he was against raising the gasoline tax. In fact, all three Republican candidates have made correct comments about not allowing the legislature to raise the gasoline tax.

You’ll recall last week Mrs. Medina’s campaign admitted to checking “Strongly Favor” on a statewide voter’s guide to the horrific ‘local option’ gas tax and fee increase plan; the campaign retracted the answer, saying her staff had erred.

Team Kay is distributing — through the Come & Take It blog, which also helpfully transcribed it — a clip of Gov. Perry on Lubbock’s KFYO morning show today. The host asked the governor what legislative options existed for funding transportation. Perry’s response:

“So, I hope again, our Congressional delegation will get some steel in that backbone when it comes to dealing with the appropriations process and bring it to a halt until Texas gets its fair share of transportation dollars back. So, with that said, the options to build roads – unless one believes in the asphalt fairy, which I don’t believe is going to get any roads built – is raising the gas tax, getting Washington to give us more money, stopping the diversions in Austin, or tolling those roads. I think it’s – those are all options that are on the table that we ought to talk about as a people come 2011, because the fact of the matter is, if we’re going to keep our economy going, we’re going to have to build roads.”

UPDATE: The complete audio of the interview is up at KFYO’s website. Perry’s answer about transportation issues runs almost 3 minutes. Team Kay left off what he led with: “stop the diversions.”

Was Gov. Perry laying out the options — good and bad — or making a shift in policy? That pesky word “or” might lead some to believe he was giving a list of what lawmakers will probably consider.

Given how adamant Perry has been on the issue, and his propensity to list things when talking about issues, I suspect that “or” is rather important to keep in mind.

Of course, in the final eight days of a campaign everyone reads into each candidates’ statements what they will, based on who they support and oppose.

Our friends at Stop The Hike blog describe the comment as having “only helped to muddy those waters.”

But Perry is correct to say the gang of 181 in the Legislature might consider raising gas taxes, and more. If they try it, it’ll be up to the governor to stop it. Perry said he was against raising the gas tax, even if some wayward lawmakers like it.

And some do, even a couple Republicans. After all, House Speaker Joe Straus just recently created the Select Committee on Transportation Funding to which he named self-appointed Republican tax-hiker State Rep. Vicki Truitt of Southlake. Last session Truitt was a proponent of new revenues (higher gas taxes and fees) to fund light-rail and other things tangentially related to transportation; she has now gone silent on the issue. State Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) wants to put the gasoline tax on auto-pilot increases.

This morning’s comment highlights just how important it is for Gov. Perry, Sen. Hutchison and Mrs. Medina to continue clearly communicating with lawmakers a simple message: no new taxes, no tax hikes.

What they must continue to support is what voters, taxpayer advocates, sensible transportation experts, and the conservative movement have been saying for more than a year.

Solutions to the state’s congestion and mobility problems will come first with local government and regional transportation spending transparency, as well as lawmakers ending the gas tax diversions, spending money only on things that demonstrably improve congestion and mobility, and then imposing strict spending accountability.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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