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Taxed too little or they spend too much?

"You're being taxed too little for the roads you already drive on,"
-- David Casteel, San Antonio District Engineer, TxDOT, at MPO Roundtable, August 2005
We're currently taxed approximately 3 1/2 cents a mile (on average according to graphic that accompanied Dec. 1 story) under the gas tax system. The national average for a traditional turnpike is 9 cents a mile, what on earth do they need with 40 cents to $1 a mile in so called "market-based" tolls (which are state-run monopolies)? (I have the feasibility studies that show rates of $1 to use the new toll-only interchanges)? With 5 cost estimate changes on the toll starter system since June and the bait and switch change in toll rates found in the Austin plans, the public doesn't trust the toll rates they're quoting for 281 and the toll starter system.

What they're doing on 281 defies common sense, good government, transparent government, and good fiscal policy. THEIR rationale MUST be challenged! We've put forth a good faith effort to bring alternatives to the table with our limited resources.
  1. Get our fair share of federal gas tax (we send away $100 million more than we get back in San Antonio EVERY YEAR!)
  2. ATD tax (new sales tax that gives us matching funds just like tolls)
  3. Bond funds (borrows future gas tax revenues to speed up projects)
  4. A&M Study: "don't need tolls; don't need to raise gas tax". Read our December 11, 2006 blog post on the release of this report: A&M expert: Don't need to raise gas tax at all
Let's look at some of the alternatives to tolls put forth by San Antonio Mobility Coalition (SAMCO), for instance. EVERY alternative to tolls is LESS money, yet they didn't endorse those options, they're pushing tolls instead (so much for the public good)!
  1. Create a countywide gas tax of 25.7 cents per gallon
  2. Increase the city sales tax by 3/4 of a cent.
  3. Boost city property taxes 56 percent.
  4. Raise the county's vehicle registration fee from $10 to $110.
"Yes, those numbers ARE accurate (when we did the math showing every alternative to tolls they mention is less money), but those aren't OUR proposals. Those were options we listed, but that's not what we're proposing," -- Vic Boyer, Executive Director San Antonio Regional Mobility Coalition (non-profit, tax-funded partnership), stated at the December 5, 2005, MPO Transportation Policy Board Meeting Meeting. Can you figure out whose interests he represents, ours or highway special interests?

San Antonians already pay a sales tax for highways, the ATD tax, that just passed November 2004. But the vote for that tax increase hadn't even occurred yet when TxDOT was already out there pushing tolls. The hike in vehicle registration SAMCO mentions is $100 a year compared to an average of $3,000 a year in tolls (this figure comes from TxDOT's own online survey that quoted 29 cents a mile for a 20 mile commute on 1604 which equals over $3,000 a year just to drive to and from work). The claims that they'd have to raise the gas tax $1 is completely UNSUBSTANTIATED and would amount to quadrupling their current state gas tax revenue intake.

The 25 cent per gallon gas tax increase is also less than tolls. You read that right, less than tolls. Considering the average San Antonian uses roughly 1500 gallons of gas a year and they're paying 20 cents a gallon to the State, that means they currently pay $300 a year in gas tax. That would equal $375 a year more, which is more than double what we give the state now. The size of this tax increase is also totally unsubstantiated in my mind--DOUBLE!--what do they need double the money for? Even an increase in property tax that they mention would be less than the $3,000 a year in tolls for most taxpayers.

If they get rid of just the toll equipment ($54 million just for the 47 mile toll starter system) not to mention the toll lanes (that only half of all motorists can use) and just build what's needed, the road is 40-100% less money to build and EVERYONE can drive on it. So the simple solution sure seems to be to CAN the toll lanes, which vastly reduce this inflated $14 billion funding gap which is also unsubstantiated. SA gets $100 million a year in discretionary funds currently, they're saying we need FOUR times the money we currently get (their $14 billion figure works out to $700 million a year over 20 years). The entire state of Texas gets $6.1 billion a year and they say SA needs $14 billion over the next 20 years? SA is number 5 in number of lane-miles per person in the much money and how many roads do they think we need?

TTC Audit...cooked the books: Post 554 and Post 561.
Audit Report: TxDOT lied about "funding gap" almost half cannot be substantiated!

TxDOT known for waste, mismanagement

There are also questions about the legitimacy of TxDOT's expenditures. Twenty states have lower gas tax than we do. Texas is second only to California in terms of disbursements. Caltrans spent $9.3 billion while TxDOT spent $6.8 billion. CA has a greater population than Texas, so it works out to be that Caltrans spent $259 per person to TxDOT's $306 per person. Caltrans spent 24% of it budget on local roads and TxDOT only spent 6.5% on local roads. TxDOT spends $88 more a person than Caltrans spent on its road system, and remember CA is more populous!

"the tollers are behaving arrogantly and with extraordinary political ineptitude"
-- Toll Road News (October 2005)
According to the father of toll roads who publishes the Toll Road News (October 2005) wrote this just before Prop 9 went down in flames…"In Texas the tollers are behaving arrogantly and with extraordinary political ineptitude. They are over-reaching. Why six year terms for toll authorities? Four year terms would provide some insulation from sudden political change while constituting a more normal term of public office. There's something sleazy too in that term 'regional mobility authority'? It's a toll authority. Why run away from that? Only people without the courage of their convictions or who are too tongue-tied to explain themselves resort to silly euphemisms. Does it fool anyone anyway? Political support in TX has also been sapped by a bewilderingly unprincipled and unexplained intermixing of funding of projects by TxDOT. Wherever they go there's a furor because no one can figure out who's paying for what. They talk privatization but so far it is all politics as usual…TxDOT's promiscuous approach to raising funds and their promotion of projects without even a semblance of study has been the anti-toll groups' major recruiter."

According to the San Antonio Business Journal, the 281 & 1604 project cost went from $1.3 billion in July 2005 to an astronomical $2.2 billion in July of 2007!

Look-up a report done by the Texas Public Policy Foundation in 1997 called, Sundown on Big Government. It was the last external audit of TxDOT. It shows that TxDOT is fraught with millions of dollars in waste and mismanagement, including stockpiling asphalt, gas, and other supplies. Some reforms have been made, but until TxDOT has an independent audit and these bureaucracies get their own houses in order in a way the public can trust, we should not be asked to pay a lifetimes of tolls for roads we've already paid for WITHOUT A PUBLIC VOTE!

We face congestion problems not due to a lack of roads, but due to mismanagement of road funds and projects like lack of interchanges at 281 & 410 and 281 & 1604. Some of the worst intersections in Texas highway history! In fact, there are only four large U.S. cities that have more lane-miles of freeway per person than San Antonio.

TxDOT's Scare Tactics

TxDOT says it's a choice between a $1/gallon or more gas tax hike or tolls. THAT'S NOT TRUE! According to a study done by the Texas Transportation Institute, all that's needed to meet all of our future transportation needs is to index the gas tax to keep pace with inflation (2-3% a year). Meanwhile, 25% of the gas tax goes to fund public schools and another tenth is diverted to non-transportation related items like mineral rights litigation and the arts.
Read Post 763 and Post 732

More info: Highest Possible Tolls

We're Losing Our Freedom!

"Think of the gas tax as your tax for road maintenance, and tolls as a tax for mobility,"
-- David Casteel, San Antonio District Engineer, TxDOT, April 2005
We stand to be priced off the freeway due to these tolls, especially commuters. Those who cannot or will not pay the tolls will become second class citizens forced to waste time on permanently congested roads though our tax money built the tollways!

This is a bait and switch scheme when we organize our lives a certain set of circumstances, using FREEways, and then they turn them into TOLLways that will significantly alter our lives like where we can afford to live and work. This unlimited taxation erodes our freedom and, in fact, threatens our very freedom of mobility. Now we'll have to pay our government a tax for mobility. How insidious is that? I'll bet they'll tax the air we breathe next! That ought to send chills up the spine of EVERY freedom-loving American!