The controversial local-option gas tax bill introduced by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, has officially been shelved and lawmakers will not try to breathe new life into it in the upcoming special session.
“Sen. Carona believes the session should be quick and just deal with the items there’s already a broad consensur on, such as issuing bonds and extending the agencies,” says Steven Polunsky, director of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee.
He believes the content of the bill wasn’t its downfall in the regular session, but the failure to get a clear explanation of it out to the public.
“There was a lot of misinformation being spread. It was the most transparent bill on transportation being set before the legislature. It required multiple levels of approval, and ultimately the ballot would go to the voters, and it would list the projects funds would go to and when the taxes would come about,” he added.
While some breathe a sigh of relief and small-government advocates who vigorously opposed the bill rejoice, others are wondering how the state will account for a $100 billion dollar deficit in transportation funding it currently faces. Upcoming toll fee increases alone won't raise enough. Without new solutions, Sen. Carona has warned Texas could run out of money for new roads and highways by the year 2012.
Polunsky says the transportation committee will likely focus in the special session on a tactic to fix the transportation crisis that doesn’t involve raising taxes: allocating $5 billion in Proposition 12 bonds passed in the last regular session and approved by voters for highway funding.
Holly LaFon has written and worked for various local publication including D Magazine and Examiner.