Texas House to vote on local option fuel tax bill

| 5/20/2009

A bill expected to receive consideration on the floor of the Texas House Thursday, May 21, would allow counties to decide whether to increase the fuel tax by a dime per gallon.

The bill – SB855 – would permit Texas counties in the biggest metro areas to hold referendums allowing voters to determine if the tax on gas and diesel should increase by 10 cents per gallon. If approved by House lawmakers, it would head back to the Senate for consideration of House changes before advancing to the governor’s desk.

The most likely scenario is the bill would be diverted to a conference committee to work on hashing out differences between the House and Senate versions.

Senate lawmakers approved a version of the bill that called for county commissioners in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and a few other metro areas to pursue elections. Voters would be asked to endorse a local fuel tax or raise parking and vehicle fees.

The current version of the bill would allow counties in 85 percent of the state to call for elections allowing voters to cast ballots on a one-time, 10-cent fuel tax boost. Ballots would specify what projects the money would be used for, as well as their price tag and completion dates.

All revenues would be used for local projects. Currently, 25 percent of revenue collected from the state’s fuel tax is routed to education.

The bill would prohibit using any revenue from the county fuel tax for toll projects.

Citing the struggling economy, opponents say now is not the time to apply more taxes to consumers.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member Bob Verdino of Lake Worth, TX, has the same opinion.

“If people weren’t struggling the way they are, I would say it’s probably a good idea because the roads do need to be taken care of. But I just don’t think it’s a good idea at this time,” Verdino told Land Line.

“The price of a barrel of oil is going up. Fuel is getting back up to $2.25 to $2.30 a gallon depending on where you are. I don’t think people can afford to pay out more of what little they have left.”

Supporters say if the measure clears the statehouse and Gov. Rick Perry signs it that voters still would get the last word on whether they want to authorize a tax.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Texas in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.