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Travis County to ponder message on local gas tax

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Travis County Commissioners will decide today what type of message, if any, they want to send to state lawmakers in Austin Wednesday during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security. Commissioners are concerned with the state’s road funding plans and could signal their interest in a bill allowing an election on a local gasoline tax. Similar measures have been proposed during previous sessions but have not been successful.


“It does seem to me that we ought to take advantage of this opportunity,” said County Judge Sam Biscoe at last week’s meeting. “I just think that since they’re in town and convenient for us, we ought to go over and have our say.” Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution directing staff to prepare draft comments for review today in advance of tomorrow’s Committee meeting.


“I think all of us are trying to identify what we need to be doing with regards to funding for added capacity roadway needs and safety issues like we’ve been dealing with out on Highway 71,” said Commissioner Gerald Daugherty. Daugherty also said he would like to see an analysis done of the amount of money taken from the state’s gas tax fund for other purposes, including education and the Department of Public Safety, and how reserving that money for transportation would affect other aspects of the state’s budget.


Other commissioners seemed more interested in the possibility of an election on local gasoline taxes. That source of revenue, Judge Sam Biscoe said, could help defray the need for toll roads. “If we’ve got five or six roads, it may be you could generate alternative funding to pay for one of them,” he said. “Everybody against those toll roads is saying ‘look for other ways to generate revenue’. An additional gasoline tax is mentioned almost every time. I never thought it was that good, because at least a toll road would just affect those on it, where a gasoline tax…if you buy gasoline in a certain area…you’re paying it. But it’s an option.”


In the 2005 legislative session, then-State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos sponsored a bill that would have allowed a local gasoline tax election, but that bill died in committee.


In drafting the county’s position statement, staffers have spent the past week working with commissioners and seeking information from the Conference of Urban Counties and the Texas Association of Counties. Commissioners will vote on the language in that statement today and on which staffers or members of the Commissioners Court will attend Wednesday’s morning hearing at the State Capitol.

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