Vehicle registration fees proposed for road funds


And then Rep. Drew Darby of San Angelo pulled his bill without putting it to a vote -- making his appeal purely symbolic.

The measure sought to raise to $65.75 the cost of registering most vehicles and motorcycles. Supporters say the funding boost for roads is needed after years of neglect by the state and warn that unless action is taken, Texas' booming population could make traffic in some of cities worse than in Los Angeles or other gridlock-plagued areas.

Darby said the Texas Department of Transportation reports that new road construction alone requires $4 billion a year but that after 2015 there's no more state funding budgeted for roads.

On Wednesday, meanwhile, Perry threatened to call a special session -- summoning lawmakers back to work after the regular session ends May 27 -- unless they approve a state budget that includes $1.8 billion in tax cuts and "no new transportation fees."

Darby said on the House floor that he met with the governor and said he "did not tell me he would expressly veto this bill, but he objects to registration fees." Some Republican lawmakers and conservative activist groups went further, branding Darby's proposal a tax increase.

Darby acknowledged that he didn't like defending the bill but said he felt he had no choice.

"I feel a little bit like the skunk at the garden party right now," he said. Darby also noted, though, that Texas has not increase its registration fees since 1985: "There are some members on this floor who were not alive the last time."

Even if it had passed, the fee increase would not have been enough. Darby said the registration fee increase would raise $350 million per year -- and that meeting all the state's transportation deficits using the fee increases alone would mean upping annual registration fees by $200.

His original proposal would have raised the fee by $30 per year, but an amendment by Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, cut the increase in half. He urged fellow Republicans to cast a tough vote.

"Where's the beef? This is beef!" Phillips bellowed. "Are we going to lead are or we going to hide?"

But lawmakers never got the chance. After quoting from a newspaper editorial promising that the fate of his proposal would mean "a day of reckoning" for Texas roads, Darby killed his own bill.

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