State considers charging you for your driving habits

August 19, 2010 8:04:40 AM PDT
Making you pay for the miles you drive or even an added tax on gas -- those are just a few recommendations to help with the budget problems at the state's transportation department. There's a proposal to add extra fees on drivers and even stop construction projects, all to make up for a big shortfall in the budget. It's no secret Texans love their cars, but the cost of driving them might go up next year in order to keep the state's roads in decent shape for decades to come. But as Eyewitness News found out, the ideas so far certainly aren't proving popular.

It may not look like there's a shortage of road construction, but with a million people expected in the greater Houston area in the next 20 years, someone's needs to pay for the state's roads -- and that someone is you.

"I don't need to pay any more than what I'm paying now," car owner Annamarie Evans said.

Doubling your vehicle registration fee is just one idea being floated by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, which is projecting a $40 billion shortfall in their 25-year regional road construction plan.

One main problem is that people are buying less gas.

"As cars consume less gas and still drive further, and as we move to hybrids and electric cars, we have less revenues going into the system to keep the system whole," HGAC Policy Analyst Allen Richey said.

Besides increased car registration, other possible money sources include hike in the gas tax and a fee for each mile a vehicle travels.

None are popular ideas with drivers.

"Everybody is raising, but you don't make really that much more in income," driver Micheal Koch said.

"There are so many people making minimum wage. In Houston, you have to have a car to get anywhere, and it just puts a lot of extra taxation on them," driver Dina Medley said.

It will be up to the state legislature to decide what if any fees are hiked.

Mayor Annise Parker points out that doing nothing isn't an option.

"In a tight budget year, they're going to have to figure out new sources of revenue or new ways to fund transportation around the state," she said.

The Houston-Galveston Area Council can only point out the money woes. They can't solve it. That will be up to the legislature when it meets next January, and you can bet it will be a battle.

You can read more about this story in the West University Examiner, our Houston Community Newspaper partner.


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