Texas Senators Cruz and Cornyn along with Democrat Mark Kelly of Arizona filed a bill this week that would change the formula that allocates Federal highway funds. The senators claim that their states pay in more than they receive, and that the calculations are to blame.
One of the points anti-Texit whiners eventually get around to is “what about all those Federal dollars for highways?” This week our Senators filed a bill to change the highway funding allocation. Here are their comments from Senator Cruz’ press release: (italics added)
“Texas continually receives less funding from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) proportionally than any other state, even as we contribute the most in gas tax revenue to the HTF every year. Texans deserve a highway system that receives its fair share of infrastructure development funding. I am proud to partner with Sen. Kelly on this commonsense bill calling for a study to modernize the formula to ensure we invest properly in Texas highways and highways across the nation.” – Senator Ted Cruz
“As the biggest donor in the country to the National Highway Trust Fund for several years running, Texas continues to be shortchanged out of our full share of funds. Highway Formula Fairness Act will ensure every donor state, including Texas, receives every dime they are owed in federal highway funding and that Texas drivers will no longer be the victim of this unfair exchange.” – Senator John Cornyn
When it comes to those Federal highway dollars, our senators are clear that Texas contributes more than it receives. The anti-Texit folks seem to think we get back at least what we contribute, or maybe even more, but they’re wrong.
Let’s break down what an independent Texas could do to fund its highways, since we already know that the Federal government fails us in that regard.
Let’s look at where the current Texas budget for roads comes from. According to the state Comptroller, roughly half of Texas highway budget comes from Federal sources. Further, multiple legislative acts and voter-approved constitutional amendments have passed in the last ten years to increase Texas’ share of highway funding. Auto fuel taxes, auto registration fees, and general sales tax revenue all contribute to the money that Texas allocates to highways.
But what about taxes? The current Texas fuel tax is $0.20 per gallon. Federal taxes add 18.4 cents to gas and 24.4 cents to diesel fuel. When you break that down a bit with some logic, roughly half of the gas tax goes to the state and half to the Fed. Given that roughly half of the Texas highway money comes from the Fed, what will happen when we go our own way? Texas could keep the overall fuel tax the same and generate the same amount of income. Now that we’ve established that Texas receives less highway funding than it pays in, we can clearly see that we’d be able to raise more highway money just by maintaining the current “Federal” tax rate.
So what would the Texas highway system look like without Federal dollars? We could raise more money than we currently receive by simply absorbing the existing Federal fuel tax. We could decrease fuel costs by taking advantage of our natural resources, especially when we could build more refineries without EPA interference. We could also make regulatory changes that would significantly decrease highway permitting and construction costs. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be just fine. A free Texas may even find its highways in better shape without Federal influence.
It is good for our Senators to recognize that Texas pays more than it gets when it comes to highway funding. It’ll be an even better day when they realize that Texas will be better off when we are free and independent.