Conventional wisdom is that it sure would be good to find a way for "the other guy" to pay these costs rather than me. This flows from similar successful efforts to fund public improvements with OPM financing ("Other People's Money"). This was fabulously popular here in San Antonio in May, 2008 when we voted to continue and/or increase the taxes on hotel rooms and car rentals in the city to pay for improvements to the Riverwalk and local soccer fields. Bring on the public improvements that will make life in San Antonio better, and since that might also lure a few out of town conventioners, make them pay for it.
Unfortunately, there's no OPM to be had when it comes to road improvements. Yes, we can indeed tax visitors and business persons traveling through TExas if we employ toll roads or gas taxes either one. But that shotgun approach also means that shudder Texans will also be burdened with those taxes and fees.
All of this "begs the question" on a couple of points:
- What's the most efficient way to collect the needed money? Toll roads require traffic to slow down to deposit the loot. They also, as mentioned above, can change people's minds about using certain roads if some are tolled and others are not. People will go a little out of their way to save a penny.
- More roads create more suburban sprawl. Do we really want that? Is that preferable to renovating and renewing urban areas where we've got adequate existing roads. (Oh yeah, those roads would then have to be maintained better -- never mind).
And now the political operatives are floating a supposed NEW third method for raising money. It would involve, as I understand it, having people pay a tax on the elapsed miles driven on their odometers of their cars. But how does that differ in effect from the gas tax? A gas tax is higher for people who drive more miles. But a gas tax discourages gas guzzler cars in ways the "miles driven" tax wouldn't.
Makes your hair hurt, don't it?