Current revenues will curtail road building in Texas within a few years, according to testimony last week before a House Appropriations subcommittee.
James Bass, chief financial officer at the Texas Department of Transportation, said the available proceeds from authorized debt will dry up after the state signs road building contracts in 2013. Gasoline tax revenues are insufficient to finance new roads, he said.
“We’re in the era of uncertainty in 2015,” Bass said.
He said the state should be spending $14 billion a year to expand and upgrade the existing highway system, but it only gets $10 billion a year from the Legislature.
The state’s gasoline tax of 20 cents per gallon has not been increased since 1991. A third of the revenues are dedicated to public education.
Bass said a 1-cent increase in the gasoline tax would generate $110 million a year for the highway fund.
Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, said lawmakers allocated $3 billion a year for new highway construction but the total could drop to $1 billion annually in the next two-year budget. Much of the earlier money came from Proposition 12 general obligation bonds approved by Texas voters, and federal stimulus funds.
“We have maxed out the credit card on borrowed funds,” Pickett said.
Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, chairman of the appropriations subcommittee, said more money is needed just to keep roads and highways at their current condition.
“We’re going to have to figure out a way to supplement our revenue stream to accommodate road infrastructure costs,” he said at last week’s hearing.
Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, called on lawmakers to raise the annual vehicle registration fee by $50 to fund highway projects.