A leading activist on fuel and transportation tax issues, Terri Hall, says that the 2015 session in the Texas Legislature could focus on a potential gas tax hike due to recent statements she claimed were offered from Republican House leadership on the matter–despite statements to the contrary from top Speaker Joe Straus lieutenants.
Hall, whose group Texans United for Reform and Freedom focuses primarily on transportation issues, wrote in the San Antonio Express News’ blog this weekend that State Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) recently told the San Antonio Mobility Coalition he will be pushing for higher gasoline taxes.
“Darby’s gas tax lobbying couldn’t have come at a worse time for taxpayers,” wrote Hall. “Gas prices have stayed well over $3 a gallon even in the winter months (when prices are generally lower) and have been on a steady rise for weeks. The prices will continue to rise as we approach the summer driving season.”
Rep. Darby’s Capitol office told Breitbart Texas that he is supportive of ending diversions from gas tax revenues, and only listed tax hikes as a possible scenario for lawmakers to consider.
But State Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) told Breitbart Texas he is unaware of any push to raise the gasoline tax. Phillips is Straus’ Transportation Committee chairman.
“I’m not hearing anything about” raising the gas tax, said Phillips in an interview. “I just haven’t heard that as a push… I don’t see that happening.”
Hall noted that Darby made his pitch “in a room full of highway builders who also happen to be generous campaign donors” instead of “in front of his local tea party.”
Previous attempts to raise the gasoline tax have been effective tools against legislators leading the charge. Former Republican State Rep. Vicki Truitt of Tarrant County tried to raise gasoline taxes in 2009. She promised “to fall on my sword” for the issue. Voters got the chance and retired her from public life when challenged on the issue in a subsequent GOP primary.
The most recent pre-election advocate for increasing gasoline taxes was State Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas). A long-time proponent of raising the gasoline tax, Carona was defeated this month by Don Huffines who said he would not “support raising taxes or fees for our roads.”
That would sit better with Hall: “Lawmakers need to exercise some fiscal discipline and end the diversions of all our road taxes and fix the highway funding shortfall without adding to the tax burden.”
Follow Michael Quinn Sullivan on Twitter @MQSullivan