We have long-supported dedicating the vehicles sales tax to roads, but Nichols' bill does it far too slow to make an appreciable effort to stop the reliance on tolling. Since lawmakers have stolen from our highway funds for decades, it's time they restore it and make restitution...NOW instead of ask Texans to pay $24/day in tolls to get to work. Nichols has never seen a toll road he didn't like - including those propped up with gas taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and guaranteed by the Texas taxpayer. He's part of the problem, not the solution. Until thwre's a provision to keep these funds from being used to build, subsidize, or guarantee toll roads, NO DEAL!
Third Proposal Floated to Pay for Road Construction
By Jim Forsyth
June 30, 2014
The head of the Senate Transportation Committee says there is a better way to pay for TxDOT's crushing highway maintenance, repair and construction needs than raising the gas tax or building toll roads, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
State Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Lufkin) told the San Antonio Mobility Coalition he will propose a constitutional amendment when lawmakers meet in January to dedicate a large portion of the vehicle sales tax to roads.
"I'm not talking about increasing the vehicle sales tax," he said. "We're talking about constitutionally dedicating the tax you pay on a vehicle, and have it go to support the infrastructure that the vehicle is dependent upon."
Nichols says that would go a long ways toward raising the roughly $4 billion per year that independent analysts say is needed to repair and construct the highways needed in the growing state.
"You're looking at a billion and a half, maybe two billion dollars per year," Nichols said. "That's per year."
Nichols said unlike the gas tax, which is the main method of funding highways today, the vehicle sales tax revenue is increasing, not decreasing. Gas tax revenue has been falling even though miles driving on Texas highways is up...largely due to substantially better fuel economy from today's vehicles.
Nichols said in addition to the constitutional amendment to dedicate a portion of the vehicle sales tax to roads, it is critical that voters in November approve the proposition to spend additional revenue coming into the Economic Stabilization Fund, the so called 'Rainy Day Fund' for highways.
Tea Party groups oppose the proposition, saying the Rainy Day Fund should be reserved for emergencies and for core functions of state government, but Nichols says there is no function of state government more 'core' than building roads.
"An individual cannot build a road, a city cannot build a road, and a county cannot build a road either," he said. "So this is a true core function of the state."
Nichols says he is open to discussion about what portion of the vehicle sales tax should be dedicated to roads. He says it's always a touchy subject to discuss taking money that is currently placed in the general fund and using it for other purposes, because lawmakers then have to come up with ways to make up the money that is lost to other programs.
Proposition One, on the ballot in November, would take half of the future deposits if the Economic Stabilization Fund and dedicate the finds to highways.. Nichols says both the ESF and the highway fund will continue to grow. The Fund is replenished through the state's oil and gas severance taxes, the Economic Stabilization Fund is now overflowing, and the state Comptroller estimates it will have 8.07 billion in it at the end of the 2014-2015 biennium.