8/2/2013Arizona, Texas: Opposition Mounts To Toll Roads
Arizona and Texas voters may have a chance to vote against toll roads at the ballot box.
Road tolling is becoming a less popular option in many areas in the country. In Arizona, efforts are underway to put an initiative on the statewide ballot that would ban the tolling of existing roads while in Texas lawmakers realize voters would never approve a transportation package that included authorization for tolling.
Lawmakers in the state of Texas reached a deal Sunday on transportation funding that included a clear proviso that the cash raised cannot be used for toll roads. The proposed constitutional amendment cleared the state Senate on Tuesday, and on Thursday a special committee in the House approved the complicated formula that would transfer about $1 billion per year from the state's economic stabilization fund into the state highway fund for use in building roads. The stabilization fund collects revenue from a tax on oil and natural gas production.
"Revenue transferred to the state highway fund under this subsection may be used only for constructing, maintaining, and acquiring rights-of-way for public roadways other than toll roads," Senate Joint Resolution 1 states.
Supporters suggest this is the only politically feasible road funding mechanism that also stops the diversion of 25 percent of gas tax revenue into the schools fund. If approved by the state House, the public would vote on the measure on November 4, 2014.
"If approved, the amendment would represent a sharp departure from relying on debt and toll roads as primary mechanisms for funding highways," proponents argued in material submitted to the House legislative analyst. "Using taxpayer dollars for purposes as closely related to the reason for their collection as possible is both a matter of good practice and honesty in appropriations."
In Arizona, the Arizona Automobile Hobbyist Council filed a petition with the secretary of state kicking off an effort to collect 259,213 signatures on a petition that would call for a vote on a state constitutional amendment to ban tolling. The proposal "Prohibits the conversion of existing publicly funded or maintained roadways into fee-based managed lanes or any form of toll roads." Arizona motorists currently pay an 18.4 cent federal tax and an 18 cent state tax on each gallon of gasoline.
"Who do they think their jiving here anyway?" asked AAHC president Al Tracy on a flyer promoting the initiative. "Because in reality, tolls are just another tax collected from those whose highway tax dollars built these roads in the first place. Double taxation allowed by our elected representation, it's time to loudly say 'No New Taxes.'"
A copy of the Arizona initiative is available in a 125k PDF file at the source link below.