Texas mayors exploring gas tax to pave way for road upkeep

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Updated: 8/04/2012 7:26 am

With the state's infrastructure funding getting smaller, the mayors of some major cities, including Lubbock, are looking to the Legislature for help.

"If this comes down to just a local level, to where, as a city of Lubbock, and our MPO, we have to fund all of our road projects, you will never see another Marsha Sharp Freeway. You will never see another Northwest Passage," Mayor Glen Robertson said.

Transportation is among some key issues mayors are looking at, with a statewide gas tax getting the most attention.

"In the state of Texas, the revenue is by gas tax, and the revenue is a little over 30 cents per gallon," Robertson said. "Well, the problem is, people are driving less today. So as a result, the state of Texas is raising less revenue for road maintenance and new roads than we ever have in the past."

The idea has been nixed by the Legislature twice in recent sessions. State Representative Charles Perry said there are additional issues to consider.

"Until I see, number one, that we are operating efficiently within the Department of Transportation, number two, that if there is additional revenue called for, that it has got a distribution system in place that will give fair equity across the board on how that money is distributed, I think that the gas tax has been set aside," Perry said.

Both Perry and Robertson admit some cities do have urgent infrastructure needs. One idea that was tossed around is to allow cities to increase their own gas tax. Both said they prefer any tax decision be made at the state level.

"In Lubbock, we are a great example of what happens when you do partner local firms," Perry said. "Marsha Sharp Freeway got done ahead of schedule because we had MPO, we had some local dollars,
we had some federal dollars that we were able to put together to pull that project forward."

"There needs to be some rank in the systems," Robertson said, "and when you have got cities like Lubbock that are willing to step up and put our own money into the projects, then we ought to go to the top of the list."

Perry said some cities, especially in east Texas, have major problems, but have not been willing to contribute to their own progress. He said they are going to have to commit to partnerships before their own improvements can even be discussed.

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