Funds lacking for Texas roads, Rep. Darby says

Big Spring residents found out during the Texas Good Roads conference that within the next year and a half, there will be no new money for Texas roadways. A tour of Texas brought State Rep. Drew Darby to Big Spring on Wednesday afternoon to address this transportation funding issue. Since 2001, the federal government has increased its debt by 234 percent as a result of wars and other circumstances, according to Darby. In that same time period, the state government has increased its debt 281 percent. Total numbers of debt have gone from $17 billion in debt to $41 billion. “We have maxed out our credit cards. Instead of addressing our funding issue, projects were moved forward and we were able to get more bang for our buck and were able to build more roads at a time of lower interest rates,” Darby said. “But now, all that bond money is out; we have spent all our credit cards and we are left paying that back first, which leaves less and less dollars to maintain our current road structures.”As a result of abandoning the pay as you go structure for roadways and moving to the use of bonds, the projection is that no new money will be available as of 2014 for Texas roadways. “If we are going to move this state forward we are going to have some stability in how we fund roads and that’s the challenge,” Darby said. “There are always one or two ways to deal with funding, either use cash or use credit cards, but we have maxed out both,” he said. Since 1985, Texas roadways have been funded by registration tax with added help from the inclusion of the gasoline sales tax. The registration tax has not been increased since 1985. Texas sits 44th in the nation when it comes to registration tax. The gasoline tax has been sitting at 15 cents since 1991. “Our income stream has become static. The gasoline tax which provided 15 cents in 1991 is now equivalent to 8 cents in road repairs,” Darby said. Since 2000, the population has grown by 20 percent — 5 million people — and the number of registered vehicles has grown by 52 percent. However, the capacity on roadways has only increased by 6 percent. There has been five times more spent on repairs and accidents. The deterioration of roadways and increase of repairs needed has also resulted in 15 cents being added to the cost of milk and about $800 added to the cost of making a vehicle, according to statistics provided during the conference. “We need to address the income stream we have at this point while protecting it at the same time,” Darby said. We have more than $1 billion in repairs needing to be made on farm to market roads funded by the state with another $1 billion being provided by counties. “The purpose of this meeting is to get the message out that we have a serious transportation funding problem,” Darby said. “I am asking everyone to reach out and say we have a problem. We want the legislature to turn this problem into a priority and help find a solution.”