From forward to reverse

Sen. Robert Deuell, a Republican from Greenville, made a bit of news yesterday by advocating that the state spend most (perhaps all) of the Rainy Day Fund, close up some sales tax exemptions AND raise the state gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon to soften cuts to state services.

“We’re a low tax state, and we’ve got people in need,” the senator, a physician in real life, told The Texas Tribune.

Unfortunately, Deuell is not chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is where any tax bill would have to originate, and Rick Perry, who probably would veto it anyway, is still governor.

But raising the gasoline tax would be an interesting proposition because onefourth of the revenue it generates is dedicated by the state constitution to public education through the Available School Fund. The other threefourths is earmarked for highways.

For the record, a 10cent increase in the gasoline tax would raise an estimated $2.9 billion over the next twoyear budget period, with about $700 million of that going to the public schools. That wouldn’t plug the revenue shortfall for either highways or schools, but it would be a significant step in the right direction, particularly if it were paired with Rainy Day expenditures and other revenue sources.

Deuell’s proposal reminds me of the effort that thenGov. Mark White took to increase education funding in 1984, the year the Legislature (with his support) enacted House Bill 72, the landmark reform law that included, among other things, the important 221 class size cap for kindergarten through fourth grade.

White enlisted the support of local officials, highway contractors and others in the business community to win a fivecentspergallon increase in the gasoline tax (which doubled the rate at that time). It was a winwin. County judges and contractors got money for new highways, and the public schools got a muchneeded boost in funding.

White helped move Texas forward. Perry is stuck in reverse.

-From The Texas Tribune


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