Tyler, Tx — Everyone in Austin agrees, highway funding in Texas is inadequate. And that’s where the agreement ends.
There are many ideas floating around Austin on how to pay for Texas roads. Some like the Governor prefer toll roads.
Senator Robert Nichols wants to divert money from new car sales taxes to a special fund.
“All that’s doing is moving the chairs on the Titanic. You’re not solving a thing,” says Senator Kevin Eltife who has a more direct idea. “Choose your poison. None of us like raising taxes, but raise the gas tax a dime. Or, not together, but or maybe you expand the sales tax base or raise the sales tax rate.”
The gas tax hasn’t been touched since 1992, and we’ve been relying on debt to finance highway contruction. Eltife says, that’s not conservative.
‘We have sold 13-billion dollars, billion dollars in debt to fund TXDOT in the last ten years,” he says. “Now, we’re swimming in debt. And the answer is to find a dedicated revenue stream and pay cash. I’ve been saying it since I’ve been in the Senate, honestly. We need to be paying cash for our projects. Not continuing to go into debt. You know, it’s just like the half cent sales tax. It takes political courage to raise a little tax, like we did on the half cent sales tax. The city of Tyler is out of debt, lowest tax rate in the state.”
But taxes are like kryptonite in today’s political environment. Does he worry about the repercussions?
‘All I know to do is name the problem,” Eltife says, “tell the people how I would solve them, tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may.”