State missing road-building opportunity

Perhaps you’ve noticed over a period of time that I like referring to Paul Burka’s blog on Texas Monthly’s website. It provides grist for my own commentary.

His latest item refers to Texas road construction and maintenance.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/road-nowhere

I believe Burka, who’s a smart guy and well-versed in all things relating to Texas government, has glossed over an essential point in extolling the need for the state to pump more money into its highway fund.

It is this: Texas’s economy is built significantly on fossil fuel exploration and development. Therefore, it is in the state’s economic interest — at this time and likely for the foreseeable future — to enable motorists to travel safely on its roads, highways and bridges. Why? Because the vast majority of motor vehicles traveling through the state are powered by gasoline, which comes from those fossil fuels pulled from the ground in Texas.

Burka notes that the state hasn’t raised its gas tax since 1991. He adds correctly that given the mood of the state political leadership, it seems unlikely the Legislature would increase the tax. It’s a matter of politics interfering with good policy.

Do I want to pay more for gasoline when the need arises? No. However, if the revenue were to bolster the state highway fund and create a safer driving environment for my family and me, then I’m all for it.

It’s not that the state is doing nothing. As Burka writes: “The Legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment, to be voted on by the public in November, to provide $1.3 billion for highway projects. Even so, the dollars provided by the amendment will be a drop in the bucket for roadbuilding.”

Texans comprise a mobile society. Those of us who live out here in the vast expanse of West Texas understand that you have to drive some distance to get anywhere.

Road construction and maintenance ought to be a no-brainer for a state as vast as ours — and a state that still relies heavily on fossil fuels to power its economy.

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