Texas (really, Texas) considering tax on gas guzzlers

Fort Worth Star-TelegramFebruary 13, 2011 

Texans love their trucks and big sport utility vehicles.

But those that don't meet federal fuel efficiency standards might soon cost Texans more money to continue driving them.

State officials are considering a $100 surcharge on the purchase of some new vehicles that don't meet federal fuel efficiency standards. It's one legislative proposal designed to raise more revenue and help reduce the looming, multibillion-dollar deficit.

"Despite the increased costs associated with inefficient vehicles, they are exempt from the federal gas-guzzler tax and do not pay any additional sales tax," a recent Legislative Budget Board report said. "A surcharge attached to the sale of new vehicles with high emissions would compensate for the higher-than-average transportation-related costs these vehicles create."

Critics say now is not the right time to levy more fees, surcharges or taxes on Texans. "Some of these vehicles I believe that would get tagged with the surcharge are needed by small businesses for their livelihood — farmers, truckers," said Talmadge Heflin, director of the Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Fiscal Policy. "We should be free to buy the kind of vehicle we need without fear of having to pay an extra surcharge just because of what we choose to buy."

No bills have been filed to add the surcharge.

The surcharge is among several recommendations that the budget board listed in its recent Government Effectiveness and Efficiency Report suggesting ways to save money or generate revenue. The board is a permanent joint committee of top House and Senate members, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus.

Other suggestions include repealing the blue law, which prevents liquor sales on Sundays; regulating urgent-care centers; modernizing care delivery at state-supported living centers; phasing out economic development tax refunds; requiring state employees to pay more of the cost of their health insurance; establishing pill-splitting programs to reduce costs for state employees and increasing traffic fines to improve safety.

Read more of this story at Star-Telegram.com

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