Even as the legislative cheerleaders for raising gas taxes have been sidelined and admit there isn’t the political will to grow government while making travel and transportation more expensive, other big spenders are stepping up efforts to build new avenues draining your wallet. They are seeking support from statewide associations and trade groups, hoping for grassroots support in pushing a big-tax agenda even as the national and state economy struggle to climb out of the worst recession in decades.

The “Transportation Advocates of Texas” is promoting an agenda that includes putting an automatic, annual gasoline tax-increase in place, and giving cities and counties increased taxing authority. No spending reforms, no transparency. These big-tax advocates just want more of your money for more of their boondoggle spending schemes.

Even though they are now operating under this new name, these “Transportation Advocates” are little more than re-tread of the tax-funded lobby coalition of north Texas cities, other taxing entities and patronage-seeking entities that pushed (unsuccessfully) for a tax-hike and big-fee scheme during the last legislative session. They will try this time to appear “independent.”

According to an internal document, “Transportation Advocates of Texas” is going after a long list of organizations, encouraging them to work for higher taxes and unaccountable spending. With whom are the taxers hoping to build alliances?

Gas-Taxers Targets
American Automobile Association
Associated General Contractors of Texas
Association of Electric Companies of Texas
Real Estate Council of Texas
National Federation of Independent Business
TechAmerica (formerly AEA)
Texas Aggregates & Concrete Association
Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
Texas Apartment Association
Texas Association of Builders
Texas Association of Business
Texas Association of Manufacturers
Texas Association of Realtors
Texas Automobile Dealers Association
Texas Chemical Council
Texas Construction Association

Texas Council of Engineering Companies
Texas Farm Bureau
Texas Good Roads and Transportation Association
Texas Motor Transportation Association
Texas Oil and Gas Association
Texas Petroleum Marketing and Convenience Store Association
Texas Restaurant Association
Texas Retailers Association
Texas Taxpayers and Research Association
Texas Association of Counties
Texas Conference of Urban Counties
Texas Economic Development Council
Texas Municipal League

This is clearly only a partial list of the taxers’ targets. We don’t know which of those groups’ leaderships are considering support for a tax-hike agenda, but you might want to make your voice heard sooner than later. The pro-tax lobby is out making their economically-unsound case right now.

Speaking of lobbying… the “Transportation Advocates of Texas “ are assembling a team of lobbyists and consultants to work against taxpayers this next legislative session. They will do everything they can to convince lawmakers in Austin that you want your taxes raised.

You can expect them to use Washington-style tactics, such as attacking those who believe government already takes enough from productive sector. Expect them to say anyone opposed to new taxes and bigger budgets doesn’t have solutions.

Some facts to consider:

  • Approximately 40% of every state gas-tax dollar is divertedto non road and bridge purposes. That’s got to stop.
  • There is little or no transparency by local governments in using transportation dollars, yet they are the ones spending your tax-dollars in arguing for higher taxes.
  • There is remarkably no real requirement that transportation spending by those same local governments actually increase mobility or improve congestion. It’s often little more than a big slush-fund to promote political patronage.
  • Gas-tax revenues have continued to rise, year after year. A lot of money is being collected by government for transportation… and a lot more is being wasted, misspent, even lost.
  • The gas-tax-hikers want to spend new dollars primarily on wasteful projects like light-rail and commuter-rail, expensive with no record of traffic relief or mobility improvement.
  • The two tax-hike proponents in the Texas legislature have said the proposal is dead. State Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) declared his tax-baby dead after he was knocked off his perch as chairman of the senate’s transportation committee. Meanwhile, State Rep. Vicki Truitt(R-Southlake) had to back down from the issue after a tough primary election.
  • Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White says he is open to raising the gas tax. House Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Pickett (D-El Paso) is now all in favor of it.

The gas-taxers will claim there is a cost to doing nothing, implying that that is the only alternative. Too bad for them the right-thinking folks at the Texas Public Policy Foundation have a great report demonstrating how transportation needs can be funded without raising taxes.

Fundamentally, the worst thing anyone can do in a fragile economy is hike taxes and grow the cost of government. By making it more expensive to move people and things – which a gas tax does almost by definition – you literally stall the upward movement of the economy.

NOTE: Several lobbyists names were in an earlier draft.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

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