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Perry: Spend Vehicle Sales Tax on Transportation

Ben Philpott, KUT News

Governor Rick Perry says that he would support using a portion of the sales tax from car sales on roads, highways and other transportation infrastructure.

“With the rapid growth of our population and our healthy economy, the amount we take in on those sales are increasing steadily,” Perry said during the Texas Lyceum Conference on Transportation in Austin.  “I propose that we dedicate the future growth in sales tax collected on motor vehicles to transportation infrastructure.”

During the State of the State address in January, Gov. Perry proposed using $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to pay for water and transportation projects around the state. The governor has maintained that the Rainy Day Fund should be used for infrastructure costs, though did not provide a dollar amount at the conference Friday.

Following Perry’s announcement, House Transportation Chairman Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) spoke in the “Politics of Financing Our Transportation Needs” panel at the conference. Phillips filed a bill that would dedicate a portion of vehicle sales tax to Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). He said that agency's official reports, which say that the state needs $4 billion to maintain current infrastructure, could be too low.

“We say we have a $4 billion shortfall for transportation, I believe it’s closer to $7 or $9 billion,” Rep. Phillips said.

State Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), who also participated in the panel, has filed transportation bills that would increase motor vehicle and trailer registration fees to fund TxDOT. The bill would increase the fee by $30, from $50.75 to $80.75.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch or a free road,” Rep. Darby said, adding that two thirds of the addition revenue from fees would be used for non-toll roads. The other third, he said, would be used to pay down existing debts.

The bills to increase registration fees and to dedicate car sales tax to transportation infrastructure are still pending in committee.

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