Republican lawmakers in the Texas House joined Democrats in supporting legislation to study how a mileage tax could be imposed on Texas drivers.

The Texas GOP platform opposes a mileage tax, but about half of House Republicans voted to give the mileage tax measure preliminary approval on Thursday.

House members voted 102-35 in favor of House Bill 3418, authored by Democrat State Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg and co-authored by Republican State Rep. Terry Wilson of Georgetown.

During Thursday’s House floor debate, Canales acknowledged the pilot project would allow tracking devices on vehicles—a major concern of opponents.

But he downplayed privacy questions, saying that “we’re all already being tracked.”

Canales said the bill instructs the Texas Department of Transportation to “find the least intrusive way to preserve our right to privacy” while implementing a mileage tax that will collect an additional $10 billion a year for highway construction and maintenance—the amount by which he says the state’s transportation needs are currently underfunded.

“So, the reality is I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows how this thing operates,” he said. “And so, we’re trying to figure it out.”

Canales’ original proposal required all pilot program participants to have on-board mileage-tracking equipment added to their vehicles, but the version approved Thursday says the study will evaluate “a variety of vehicle-mileage-counting strategies, including odometer readings, administered in a manner TxDOT considers appropriate.”

Terri Hall, an advocate for pro-taxpayer transportation solutions, says the proposal is “straight out of the Biden playbook” for implementing Democrats’ radical climate policies.

Ultimately, a mileage tax is the open door to becoming a carbon tax, because the government would be able to track and penalize drivers for driving “too much,” at the “wrong” time of day, or for actions they deem environmentally unacceptable like choosing to drive when you live close to transit.

Wilson brushed off citizens sharing concerns as “conspiracy theorists” who “make up nonsense,” complaining about “text messages and emails” from constituents opposing the bill.

“I can submit to this body that it’s all lies,” Canales agreed.

“It’s nothing but a pilot project and it’s by 800 volunteers,” Wilson said. “It’s by 800 volunteers who are going to get paid to actually participate in this, but we’re turning it into a boogeyman story.”

Canales said commercial traffic and electric vehicles are the “largest consumers of pavement,” and as more gas vehicles and diesel trucks are replaced with electric, gas tax revenue has dropped below what government needs to build and maintain roads.

“Texas needs to find a way to fund transportation into the future,” Canales added. “The way we’re doing it now just simply is not working.”

HB 3418 requires a final vote of approval in the House before moving to the Senate for possible consideration.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.