"There may be some type of approach that is put in place that I could support, but let's just wait and let it work its way through the (legislative) process," he said.
The idea of tying the gasoline tax to an inflation index was broached Tuesday by Speaker Tom Craddick. Perry said the proposal is "an interesting idea."
Both Perry and Craddick indicated that any increase would be limited, at least initially.
State Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he is trying to draft legislation to tie the gasoline tax to a highway construction cost index or something similar.
Two years ago, Perry and Craddick insisted on bridging a $10 billion budgetary shortfall without raising state taxes. Now, regardless of what happens to the gasoline tax, the governor and lawmakers are trying to piece together a package of new or higher state taxes in exchange for sharp reductions in local school property taxes.
But Perry's goal is to avoid an overall net tax increase, spokesman Robert Black said.
Dick Lavine, an analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, said state leaders are facing budgetary reality.
"It's no longer just a flat no-new-taxes (attitude)," he said. "It's a recognition that sometimes you have to pay to get what you want."
But Lavine, whose group lobbies for low-income people, said the gasoline tax is regressive. The increase, he said, would disproportionately hit poorer Texans harder because gasoline consumption is not a function of wealth.
"No matter how rich you are, you really don't drive that much farther than the average person," Lavine said.
Now, I have been critical in the past of various attempts to shift tax burdens from items which are deductible on one's federal taxes to items which aren't, and an increase in the gas tax as a piece in the property tax reduction puzzle fits that bill. I don't see this as being a big enough piece to worry about, though. A five-cent per gallon increase (which is probably more than Perry and Craddick would go for anyway) would cost a household that buys 20 gallons of gas a week and extra hundred bucks a year. And as far as this being a regressive tax goes, I can't see it comparing all that unfavorably to any sales tax increase proposal.
Lastly, since a portion of the gas tax goes to education, I'd take it over just about any harebrained scheme to expand gambling that the Lege might cook up. I see where the critics are coming from, but in the end I think this is an idea to consider.
That won't stop me from complaining about this shinola again:
An increase of only a few cents in the gasoline tax would do little to close the highway construction gap, and Perry still supports the increased use of toll roads, which has stirred controversy in parts of the state.