Eltife spoke about this Monday during the Texas Transportation Forum in Austin and reiterated some of his comments by phone Tuesday.
The fuel tax, which is 20 cents on the gallon, has not been raised in more than 10 years, Eltife said. He sees an increase in that tax as one of several options to provide new revenue for infrastructure improvements statewide.
Eltife said the state has gone $13 billion in debt for the Texas Department of Transportation in the past 10 years.
Increasing a consumption tax whether that is the gas tax or sales tax is fair because everybody pays it, he said. The state could then start paying cash for infrastructure improvements and eliminate its debt.
“My preference would be to put the state on a pay as you go basis like we did at the city of Tyler,” he said. “Had we been smart, we would have raised the gas tax 10 years (ago) and paid cash and not had all this debt.”
“The fact that we’ve gone $13 billion in debt, that is not the conservative way to pay for stuff,” he said.
He said the state is in a mess because it’s borrowed so much money for its road systems that it has no means to pay for new roads and infrastructure improvements.
Eltife said he doesn’t think there is anyone in the Legislature who will disagree that they have to have additional funding for TxDOT. However, he said, it’s going to take political courage to tell voters that a tax increase is necessary to fund infrastructure improvements.
Eltife said he has not filed a bill, but he wants to consider all options on the table. Other options include considering vehicle registration fees or increasing sales tax revenue.
“We’ve maxed out the credit card,” he said. “Now we have to pay the price, and it’s going to take hard decisions, but this problem is not going to fix itself.”