Proposition 1 will drive funds to fix Texas roads

By Mike Barnett

Texas roads were once the envy of the nation.

Ribbons of highway stretched from Beaumont to El Paso and Brownsville to Amarillo, smooth black asphalt that moved Texas motorists and commerce quickly from here to there. Rural roads were second to none, a web of Farm-to-Market highways that carried crops and livestock to markets to feed a hungry nation.

Something happened. People discovered Texas was a great place to live. They came in droves. 25 million Texans lived here in 2010. Expect 40 million by 2040.

As a result, engineering marvels turned into overcrowded, dangerous byways. Highway use increased 200 percent since the 1970s while highway capacity increased only 19 percent.

Then, a stagnant oil and gas industry revived with new drilling methods. Business boomed and with it came traffic: heavy trucks and a bunch of them, crunching and grinding road surfaces—never meant to handle this load—into treacherous, deadly routes.

Now, the backs of the rural roads in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, once lightly traveled, are broken. Some have been closed. What happened there is spreading west and north, as new oil and gas fortunes are made.

The problem is funding. Or lack thereof. Recent estimates say Texas needs $250 billion over the next 25 years to keep congestion at bay. The Texas Department of Transportation claims they will run out of money by 2016. That’s two short years away.

The main sources of funds for Texas roads are gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees. Neither has been raised in decades.

There is hope, however. It’s called Proposition 1 and it’s on the ballot in November. If approved, surplus money collected from oil and gas production taxes will be transferred to the State Highway fund. This is not a personal tax. It requires no new debt. It includes no tolls. The Legislature earmarked $1.7 billion a year as a part of this constitutional amendment.

Proposition 1 is not the end-all to our transportation issues. But it’s a good start in paving our way toward a better future.

Our parents and grandparents invested in my generation years ago. One result was a road system that rivaled the best. It laid the path for the prosperous Texas we are so proud of today. We owe it to our kids and grandkids to do the same.

Proposition 1. Vote “Yes” for a bright future Nov. 4.

 

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
Follow Mike on Twitter and Facebook.

5 Responses to “Proposition 1 will drive funds to fix Texas roads”

  1. Robert Domitz says:

    The money collected from gasoline taxes has long been diverted from its primary purpose – to fund highways. We need to end these diversions. This does not require a constitutional amendment. All it requires is backbone on the part of our legislators to end the diversions. (of course, there are many who say that “backbone” and “legislator” do not fit in the same sentence. Perhaps they are right…)

    Oil and gas are depletable resources. The production taxes and other fees from these resources will someday run out. This is why that money is placed in the “rainy day fund.” This is a stockpile of money that is supposed to be used for emergencies and disaster relief.

    Using this money for roads or education or any other ongoing expense is, to use a medical metaphor, treating the symptoms and not the disease. An alternate view: look at the problems of the states who were dependent upon tobacco taxes to fund programs. As the rate of smoking falls, their income falls, leaving these programs in limbo. Short term fixes are just a way to “kick the can (crisis) down the road.”

    We do not need short term fixes, toll roads, state income tax, state-wide property tax, or other new taxes. We do need stable income sources to fund roads and education. We need to better audit where and how well the money collected by the state is spent.

    • Mike Barnett says:

      And what would those “stable” income sources be?

      • Robert Domitz says:

        One relatively stable source could be the interest and dividends earned by the money in the Rainy Day Fund. (Capital gains, however, should be plowed back in.)

        Small increases in the state sales tax can generate huge returns.

        Professional tax code writers are very good at finding and increasing “hidden” taxes, Let’s leave it to them to come up with some good ideas!

    • Lamar Cossey says:

      I agree with Robert. However, the amendment states the funds will not be used for toll roads. TXDOT has already stated they have a work-around and plan to direct these funds to Greenville to a private corp to take property for a new tollway. The way to stop the skunks from eating the cat food is to cut off source. Greed is rampant in our state legislature and hopefully we will have a new Senate that can get something done. The only roadblock will be the Harry Reid of Texas, Joe straus. We’ve got to replace him with Turner.

  2. Though anyone seldom has anything good to say about LBJ, those good roads you remember were his legacy from his time in Congress, to Texas. We got every bit of our “fair share” (and then some) of funding for road work, especially downstate.

    Our urban congressmen and state legislators have other priorities, these days. Few of them have ever been outside the city limits of the five largest towns in TX. Rural doesn’t fit in their lexicon.

    One thing I’m sure of… Try to impose a mileage tax on Texans and there will be bloody hell to pay. If they could only steal highways in the same fashion they plan to steal my water, uncompensated.

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