At this moment, everyone in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex are the target of a massive tax increase effort in the Legislature. For example, they could be on the hook for an $8,700 “parking fee” just for having a car! And gas taxes will be set to rise faster than inflation. Today it’s Dallas, tomorrow everywhere.
Under the banner of improving mobility, legislation being crafted by tax-funded lobbyists would hand billions to quasi-governmental entities that have shown remarkable disregard for transparency and accountability.
Senate Bill 855 and House Bill 9 would let local entities hold elections to levy a half-dozen new tax and fee increases. State Sen. John Carona of Dallas and State Rep. Vicki Truitt of Southlake are the authors of these two bills.
Just three examples of the taxes and fees they would impose:
1. Allow local governments to increase the gas tax by up to 10 cents a gallon. As an added hit, this new tax would go up every year without a vote – the legislation indexes the tax it to an obscure federal government formula that exceeds the rate of inflation!
2. Counties would charge $1 per hour per vehicle for “use of a parking space” without any apparent restrictions — potentially $8,760 a year!
3. A $250 fee on new residents, and everyone’s divers’ license renewal would double.
Of the new taxes and fees, the automatic gas-tax hike is the most economically and morally offensive. Elected officials should have the courage to publicly vote to raise taxes and explain their rationale, not hide behind shady bureaucratic math designed to grow government on the sly. We don’t need to make it any more expensive for people to work, take care of their families and engage in commerce.
But that’s exactly what this legislative package would do.
Almost as bad is where the money goes. The news is filled with example after example of waste and mismanagement at DART and the North Texas Toll Authority. They have shown they cannot even be trusted with the money they already have.
Before levying higher taxes and creating new fees, the Legislature should do three things.
First, end the gas-tax diversions. At the state level, more than a third of the gas tax goes to non-transportation items – public education, the arts commission, and so on. (The situation is probably just as bad or worse with the existing local fees — there just isn’t the transparency to know how bad it is.)
Second, force the existing transportation agencies to be completely transparent with their spending.
Third, end the practice of using tax dollars to fund lobbyists.
TAKE ACTION TODAY
1. Call your House and Senate members right now. (Look up the phone numbers.) Tell them S.B. 855 and H.B. 9 take Texas in the wrong direction. Remind them that now is not the time to grow the size of government or take more money from taxpayers’ wallets. Tell them to end the diversions and make the transportation agencies more accountable before they start asking for more money.
2. Ask your friends and neighbors to take action, as well.
There is no denying traffic congestion needs to be addressed. And it is absolutely true that local communities need more flexibility in providing for their transportation needs. But the solution isn’t going to be found in stealth taxes and unaccountable spending.
This isn’t just an issue of concern for Dallas-Fort Worth. Already the big-spenders in Travis and Bexar counties are wanting in.
And it could very shortly mean higher taxes with more unaccountable spending statewide.