|Variable Rate Gas Tax||Diesel Tax|
Texas is looking for more money for roads, and the question of how the state spends its motor fuels tax funds is likely to gain traction in the legislative session. In 2014 motor fuels tax revenue was $3.3 billion, or 6.5% of all state tax collections. This substantial pot of money results from the state’s 20 cents per gallon motor fuels tax on gasoline and diesel, a rate that hasn’t changed since 1991. Everyone agrees that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) needs more funding, but with little political will to raise taxes and a demonstrated need to find money for Texas highways, the “diversions” from the State Highway Fund are raising some eyebrows.
What is the Gas Tax?
Texas’ tax on gasoline and diesel primarily funds TxDOT and education, as defined in the state Constitution. But millions of gas tax dollars fund other needs, and ending diversions from the gas tax revenue could place a number of other activities into competition for General Revenue with investments in education and health and human services.
The Constitution says one-quarter of motor fuel taxes must go directly to the Available School Fund (ASF), which funds instructional materials, and then is distributed to school districts on a per-student basis. In 2014 the ASF received $810 million in motor fuel taxes. The remaining three-quarters is sent to the State Highway Fund, which received $2.42 billion in motor fuel taxes in 2014.
But the Highway Fund is used for a variety of purposes other than funding TxDOT, known as “diversions,” but which are related to the constitutionally designated responsibilities of policing public roadways and administering laws regarding traffic and road safety. As a result, the Legislature allows appropriations from the Highway Fund to the Department of Public Safety ($475 million in 2014) and the Department of Motor Vehicles ($49 million). Notably, the Legislature reduced the appropriation to DMV from $156 million in 2013. Other diversions for related needs accounted for only $22.6 million.
CPPP – Where Does the Gasoline Tax Go?
- With the improvements in mpg and the creation of hybrids and/or electric cars we are losing tax revenue
- There are roughly 19 states with lower unemployment than Texas and all of them have a higher gas tax. The average for these 19 states is 26 cents
- 5 of the seven states without an individual income tax have a higher state gas tax than Texas. The average gas tax for these 5 states is 32.5 cents
- Raising the state gas tax could be better than mandating gas efficient engines
- Tie the current gas tax of 20 cents to inflation (CPI-U)
- Use a 26 cent gas tax and tie it to inflation (CPI-U)
- Use a 32.5 gas tax and tie it to inflation (CPI-U)
- After raising the gas tax and/or tying it to inflation, amend the Texas constitution so at least 5% goes into the general fund
Code – Tax Code
Chapter – 162 Motor Fuels Tax
Section – 162.202