Texas drivers can celebrate a small victory tonight because San Angelo State Rep. Drew Darby’s bill hiking fees for vehicle registrations hit a legislative roadblock in the House. After facing stiff opposition from legislators not wishing to break campaign pledges of no new taxes and fees, Mr. Darby killed his bill blaming “forces outside the chamber.”
HB 3664 by Rep. Darby was the only major transportation-financing bill given a chance of passage by House Leadership. Per House Rules, midnight tonight is the deadline for a house bill to be read on second reading.
Several bills aimed at addressing state highway funding never made it out of committee. HB 479 by Harper-Brown would have dedicated sales tax collected from new vehicle sales to transportation. That bill hasn’t seen any action in Appropriations since April 23.
HB 2278 by Phillips would have set the same dedication, while also ensuring the State Highway Fund could only be used for highway construction. It’s been left pending in Appropriations since April 10.
Even Rep. Lyle Larson had a bill (HJR 29) that would have forced the state to spend more of its allotted federal transportation dollars on highway construction and rights-of-way acquisition. That bill hasn’t moved in committee since April 23 as well.
Instead, the only bill House Leadership allowed to the floor was a massive fee increase on vehicle registrations, attempting to pin the false premise that members must choose to hike fees, lest they be seen as not caring about funding transportation infrastructure.
Fortunately, there were enough members who rejected that notion, and pressured Rep. Darby into postponing his bill until the day after Sine Die, effectively killing it. In doing so, Mr. Darby blamed “forces outside the [House] chamber” for such pressure not to increase fees—forces like Gov. Perry, who implied a threat of veto to legislators if they raised fees and didn’t provide sufficient tax relief (so far they are still far short of that threshold), and conservatives who view such fee increases as de facto tax hikes.
With Sine Die on the horizon, it looks like any significant transportation financing reform won’t happen this session. It likely won’t happen in the 84th Session either without a change of leadership.
Image source: DallasNews.com