HOW TEXAS IS TAKING CARE OF TROUBLED BRIDGES
I was startled to hear last week on NPR that it had been a decade since the Interstate 35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, killing 13 and injuring 145. Tempus does fugit, does it not?
That report, which took a national perspective and found too many bridges still in poor shape all these years later, also touched on how so many states have been increasing gas taxes in recent years to try to address road and bridge needs. Which, of course, got me to wondering about how Texas stacks up, both on bridges and the gas tax.
First, the gas tax. Texas legislators have not chosen to increase the state’s gas tax since 1991. That means that mostly famous Texans such as Jordan Spieth, Demi Lovato and Shane Buechele have never lived in a world where the Texas gas tax wasn’t 20 cents a gallon.
Texas House members Will Metcalf of Conroe and Briscoe Cain of Deer Park, both Republicans born in 1984, were still learning to count to 20 when the gas tax was last changed. Now they could help change it.
Not going to happen, of course, despite at least 17 states and the District of Columbia having raised their gas taxes since 2013. Texas will not be following. Few things have been more certain in state politics, other than the R next to every statewide officeholder’s name, for the past generation.
Texas, which used to be solidly in the middle of U.S. states on its gas tax, is now heading to the bottom. Or the top, depending on how you look at it.
Forty-two states now have a higher state gas tax than Texas, with Pennsylvania at the top with a levy of 58.2 cents per gallon. Alaska, which depends heavily on oil and gas revenue, has the lowest tax: 12.25 cents a gallon. The median rate among the 50 states and D.C. is Minnesota’s 28.6 cents a gallon, and the average is 29 cents a gallon.
Meanwhile, despite Texas’ huge population growth over the past decade, state gas tax revenue has gone up just 15.1 percent since the 2007 fiscal year, from $3.05 billion to $3.51 billion. Adjust that for inflation, and the value of what the state brings in from the tax