Updated at 3:22 p.m. with more accurate registration figures
Texas automobile owners could face higher annual motor vehicle registration fees in the coming years to raise new revenue for roads.
Texas Transportation Commission chairman Ted Houghton of El Paso was in Euless this morning, speaking to a group of about 200 transportation advocates from the Fort Worth and Dallas areas. Houghton offered a preview of issues that are likely to be discussed in the months leading up to the 2013 regular legislative session in Austin.
Houghton noted that although he is prohibited as commission chairman from advocating for (or against) specific laws that would raise transportation revenue, he will be suggesting to state lawmakers in the coming months that it's time to raise revenue for highways and other transportation projects.
He told a joint meeting of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition and Dallas Regional Mobility Coalition that, while it's not realistic to push for an increase in the state's motor fuels tax, it is sensible to ask lawmakers for higher motor vehicle registration fees. For example, he said, an increase of $50 per car could generate as much as $14 billion for transportation projects. The precise amount would vary, depending upon how much of the money was spent outright, and how much was leveraged with other pools of money.
"We need to start talking about it with our representatives and senators, a revenue increase at this time," Houghton told the group during a meeting at Texas Star conference center in Euless. "We have bonded money. We have gone into debt. The Texas House and Senate have graciously given us the $3 billion in bond financing we need. But that's debt financing. We need revenue."
The state's gas tax of 20 cents per gallon hasn't changed in two decades, and elected state leaders have repeatedly said there is little chance of a tax increase in the coming years. Motorists pay that tax, as well as an 18.4-cent per gallon federal gas tax, everytime they visit the pumps.