Another year, another slate of constitutional amendments for Texans to rubber-stamp. There are seven amendments on the ballot Tuesday, but one of them is really important. That’s Proposition 7, dedicating sales tax revenue to highway construction.
The constitutional amendment dedicating certain sales and use tax revenue and motor vehicle sales, use, and rental tax revenue to the state highway fund to provide funding for nontolled roads and the reduction of certain transportation-related debt.
This is being sold as a painless way to ease congestion, when it really crowds out other priorities in the budget and worsens suburban sprawl. As in road-bloated Virginia, real estate developers, the Chamber of Commerce, the economic establishment, et al. love this spending plan. They get predictable, government-subsidized demand and corpulent economies of scale while blaming teachers unions in 10 years when they ask for a tax hike because there’s no other way to keep schools open.
We’ve been down this road before. Last year 80 percent of Texans voted to raid the Rainy Day Fund to throw $1.7 billion a year at TxDOT, either ignoring or just plain ignorant of the amendment’s boosters promising it was only a “first step” to getting the $5 billion a year they want. Here they are with step two, in the form of Prop 7.
There’s a perfectly reasonable way to fund roads. It’s called the gas tax. It’s the most sensible way to fund roads by the people who use them, and it hasn’t been raised since the ’90s. Prop 7’s fans are fond of pointing this latter fact out, but they don’t explain why the gas tax hasn’t been scaled to inflation or otherwise raised. The answer is it’s harder to raise money to pay for something than it is to take from other budget categories, like education.
Vote no on Prop 7.
Further reading: “Will Texas Voters Enshrine Failed Transpo Policy in the State’s Constitution?” by Angie Schmitt.