Naked City

House Bill Would Raise State Gas Tax

A gas tax bill has stalled in the House, just as fuel costs have inched upward. Despite its state of limbo, House Bill 5 has won varying degrees of support from county associations, teachers groups, road warriors, and other interest groups of all stripes. The legislation would allow for inflationary adjustments to the gasoline tax rate each year. The last time the Legislature fiddled with the gas tax was in 1991, when the state gave it a nickel boost to its current rate of 20 cents.

"Twenty cents isn't worth today what it was worth in 1991," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, told the House Ways and Means Committee at a recent hearing. The bill passed unanimously out of the House Ways and Means Committee and is expected to move out of the House to the Senate.

The Legislative Budget Board estimates the additional penny (give or take) at the pump would add $45.6 million to the General Revenue Fund over the next two years. Meantime, the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform has blasted Krusee and co-sponsor Rep. Fred Hill, R-Richardson, for backing off of their commitment to oppose tax increases. "They are hitting consumers when they are down, piling new taxes on top of higher gasoline prices," ATR President Grover Norquist said in a statement.

Dick Lavine, testifying in favor of the bill on behalf of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, summed up the pros and cons of the bill this way: "I have no doubt that this is an extremely regressive tax. … We recognize that, and we're still in favor of the bill because we have left ourselves with a bunch of second-best choices. So until we're able to talk about any other alternatives, we'll go with this one."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Texas Legislature, House Bill 5, Mike Krusee, gasoline tax, Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, Dick Lavine, Center for Public Policy Priorities

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