At last, Rick Perry has decided to back more spending on transportation. His plan, which was developed by a group of trade associations (Realtors, Texas Association of Business, Texas Oil and Gas Association, and Texas Motor Transport Association) and announced today at a meeting of the Texas Lyceum, calls for raising $41 billion over twenty years. I can foresee two problems with the plan. The first is that motor vehicle sales taxes are general revenue. If you dedicate it to road projects, how are you going to fund other areas of the government — in particular, the big-ticket items of education and health care? Democrats (and pro-education Republicans) are going to go nuts if a major source of funding education is shifted to highways.
Another obvious problem is that Perry plans to pay for the road improvements by issuing debt–and a huge amount of it. We’ve just been through that, with the bonds that were issued during the previous decade. Issuing bonds is the most expensive way to acquire infrastructure. Rick Perry won’t be around to pay for it, but our grandchildren will. Can’t we just be sensible about this and raise the gasoline tax? This is a classic example of the damage that Perry’s rigid ideology has done to the state.