AUSTIN, TEXAS–Texans should pay higher gasoline taxes, a Texas Tech University professor advocated at a policy conference organized by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin on April 16. He acknowledged that how transportation dollars are spent must also be carefully considered.
“Fuel taxes serve as a road ‘user fee’,” said Michael Giberson, who serves on the faculty at Texas Tech’s College of Business. “Those who use the roads, pay for them.”
Giberson told the TPPF conference attendees that the tax should be increased to a level that brings in the same revenues as in 1991–when the tax was last increased.
Texans currently pay 20 cents per gallon, but to meet the 1991 spending power Giberson said the rate would need to be 33.7 percent. He also recommended tying the gas tax to inflation, so that it would increase automatically.
Giberson acknowledged that more fuel efficient engines and electric-powered cars mean the gas tax will continue to be a declining revenue source. He said other options, such as charging Texans on the basis of their miles-driven, should be considered even as he acknowledged concerns about privacy and practical implementation.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation has long criticized efforts to raise the gasoline tax, a position reaffirmed to Breitbart Texas by the organization’s vice president for policy, Chuck DeVore.
“The gas tax is a wasting asset as cars get higher fuel mileage and more cars use alternative fuels,” said DeVore. “Rather, we’d like to see general revenue used for transportation, as it was 20 years ago, in addition to reforms such as design build procurement that can reduce the cost of building roads by as much as 30%.”
In a December 2013 policy paper, TPPF noted that “less than 75 percent” of gasoline tax revenues went to road and bridge construction.
Similarly, there has been little will from lawmakers to increase the gasoline tax. Four years ago lawmakers defeated an effort to increase the legislature. Legislators scrambled last month to discount rumors that the allies of House Speaker Joe Straus were planning to raise the gasoline tax in 2015.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is opposed to increasing the gas tax in 2015.
“Greg Abbott opposes increasing the gasoline tax and rejects putting any tax on auto-pilot,” said Ave Hurta, Abbott’s press secretary told Breitbart Texas. “Improving Texas’ infrastructure so it can meet future demands is a crucial issue that Greg Abbott believes must be addressed.”
Abbott’s “Working Texans” policy proposal would devote the gasoline tax to only “right-of-way acquisition, construction and policing of public roadways, and prohibiting expenditures by any non-transportation agencies.”
Wendy Davis’ campaign did not return calls seeking comment on the issue.
Michael Quinn Sullivan is the present of Empower Texans, which has endorsed Greg Abbott for governor.