Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Potholes and Gased Up Schools

The Waco Trib advocates the passage of Proposition 12 which would allow the Texas Transportation Commission to issue $5 billion in general obligation bonds for highway improvement. Most of use who regularly drive Texas roads would agree that improvement are badly needed in many locations.

However, here is one of the state's filthiest little secrets: according to chapter 162, section 503 of the Texas Tax Code, one-fourth of the tax collected on gasoline "shall be deposited to the credit of the available school fund." So a quarter of gasoline taxes are going into the school system, primarily for the purpose of school buses.

The rational behind gasoline taxes is to fund roads. It tends to work fairly well (not great, but good enough although I have major questions about the system as a whole). You buy gas, you pay the tax which then goes to fund roads. So there is a direct connection between the amount of driving and the construction and maintenance of roads. It doesn't work half bad, until of course you sever part of that connection by diverting a substantial chunk of that tax revenue for other purposes, no matter how high minded the cause.

Recreating the connection between gas taxation and road funding would be a nice first step in improving Texas roads. If you want to increase school funding, look elsewhere.

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