Less than 12 hours after posting “Et Tu, Straus?” the aforementioned Republican House Speaker Straus’ office called to say that he didn’t mean what he said — or what the news media reported he said — about being open to the indexing of gasoline taxes. He’s just open to it being on the table.
You can hear the 590 KLBJ-AM news report here. And “indexing” the gasoline tax means the per-gallon tax would increase every year using a higher-than-consumer-inflation standard; in other words, an automatic annual tax hike with only one pesky vote. That’s bad on so many levels it makes your head spin!
I was told Speaker Straus wanted his staff to call, and reassure all of us that his view on transportation is the same as the conservative movement. That he wants greater transparency and to end the gas-tax diversions. And that raising taxes, or indexing the gas tax, comes after those things.
How the radio reporter could have thought he was open to raising the gasoline tax seemed to be something of a mystery. But that’s for them sort that out with the media.
I was told the proof would be in the interim committee charges the Office of the Speaker will issue to the House in the coming weeks. Those charges dictate what the various committees study in preparation for the next legislative session.
Voters certainly don’t seem eager for higher taxes to be on the table. The governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia seemed to reflect that sentiment, as did our own constitutional amendment election here in Texas. Voters statewide overwhelmingly approved amendments to reform the property tax appraisal system.
And during the recent legislative session, thousands of people sent letters and calls into the Texas House and Senate, opposing efforts by Sen. John Carona and Rep. Vicki Truitt o allow the imposition of new taxes and fees to fund black-hole spending in the Metroplex.
So it is nice that the Speaker’s office wants to, um, set the record straight on what he believes as opposed to what was reported he said. We’ll see how it translate into legislative policy initiatives, and whether or not Speaker Straus really does put tax increases at the very back of the line where they belong.
As a reminder, we suggest four things should be fully implemented before any gas-tax increases are contemplated:
1. End the state gas-tax diversions. Put every state gas-tax dollar into road construction and maintenance.
2. Enact strong transparency for every local and regional entity that receives gas-tax money, so the dollars can be easily tracked online.
3. Enact strong accountability for each gas-tax dollar, forbidding tax-funded lobbying while allowing the state comptroller or auditor to audit those entities books.
4. Require that congestion-relief drive spending decisions by allocating gas-tax dollars only to those projects bringing the greatest relief, and not high-dollar pet-projects that won’t deliver.
Let’s see how our current dollars are being spent, and see how they are spent reasonably, before we let lawmakers impose new taxes.