Solution Saturday: Addressing Our Long-Term Transportation Needs

       The people of Senate District 8 have spoken loud and clear and they are fed up with the excessive tolling that engulfs our communities. Without question, tolls are just another way to tax the people. The problem with road funding isn’t that taxes are too low, rather that politicians aren’t prioritizing funding towards the core functions of government.

       Over the course of a work life, the average commuter who uses a toll road twice a day in North Texas will pay $135,000! That money could be spent buying a home or sending children to college. Moreover, the cost of building a toll road is incredible inefficient. A non-tolled, pay as you go, road that costs the taxpayers $600 million, if built as a tolled road, can costs over $1 billion! Lastly, for every dollar taxed by tolls, government only collects .75 cents because of the inefficient collection mechanisms.

       As a member of the Senate Committee on Transportation, I fought not only to stop the construction of new toll roads, but to also begin the conversion of current toll roads into free lanes.

Part of my transportation legislative package included:

- SB 1238, the "Keep Free Lanes Free Act," which would prohibited the conversion of any free lanes into tolled or managed lanes
- SB 1240, the "Toll Free in 30 Years Act,” which requires TxDOT prepare and present a plan to eliminate toll roads within 30 years.

       From 2002-2012, Texas built 5,786 of lane miles. By comparison, California built 11 miles. Not eleven hundred, just eleven miles of road. This comes despite California having the nation's fourth highest gas tax. Texas' commitment to building the infrastructure needed to meet the demands of our state's continued growth was exemplified in the last two legislative sessions. In the 2013 session I helped craft Proposition 1, which directed approximately $2 billion a biennium to roads while also securing our state's Rainy Day Fund. This session, I coauthored SJR 5 (better known as Proposition 7), which nearly 84% of voters approved this past week in the Constitutional Election. Prop 7 will provide an additional $5 billion per biennium towards roads, and that total is expected to grow after 2019. Each of these propositions direct existing revenues be spent on infrastructure rather than going to general revenue where big-government politicians can spend those funds on government growth and new programs. Lastly, this session we also ended diversions that took revenues collected from the gas tax and spent the funds on expenditures other than roads. This commonsense budgetary fix increased transportation funding $2.6 billion a biennium.


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