Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said last week he is considering introducing a constitutional amendment that would raise the gasoline tax to support highway revenue bonds approved by Texas voters in 2003.
The additional tax would be earmarked for debt service on Proposition 14 revenue bonds issued by the Texas Transportation Commission.
Voters approved $3 billion of bonds in 2003, but the Legislature later increased the capacity of the highway program to $6 billion, with a maximum annual issuance of $1.5 billion. The state has issued $4.6 billion of the bonds.
Proposition 14 bonds are supported by the $6.5 billion transportation fund, which includes revenue from state fuel taxes, vehicle registration fees, reimbursements from federal funds, and other miscellaneous sources.
Ogden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told the San Antonio Express News last week that he favors a constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to increase the current gasoline tax of 20 cents per gallon by up to five cents per gallon to provide additional support for the highway bonds.
The gas tax has not been raised since 1992. Each cent of tax generates $155 million a year, with 25% of the annual collections dedicated to public school funding.
Ogden said he would specify that all the revenue be devoted to debt support for Proposition 14 bonds.
“Going with a constitutional amendment does a couple of things,” Ogden said. “It provides some political cover for people who don’t want to be responsible for raising taxes, and it gives the voters a legitimate option.”
The Texas Department of Transportation said debt service paid from the transportation fund will total $272.5 million in fiscal 2011, almost $290 million in fiscal 2012, and more than $400 million a year between 2013 and 2032.
Amending the state constitution requires two-thirds approval in the Legislature and a majority of Texas voters.