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Using less gas

Yes, even in Texas, people are using less gas as the price has skyrocketed.

State gasoline tax collections reported in June indicated taxes fell for two months in a row after a streak of gains earlier this year even as prices inched toward $4 a gallon, according to data from the Texas Comptroller’s office.

While state officials and others note that a number of factors figure in gasoline demand, the recent downturn suggests higher fuel prices are beginning to weigh more heavily on Texas drivers.

“It definitely seems like people are very aware now about the price of gasoline,” said John Heleman, the state’s chief revenue estimator.

[…]

State officials caution against reading too much into gas tax figures. They said the downturn could be a sign that Texans are driving less but may also reflect a gradual shift toward more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“I would like to see a couple more months,” Heleman said. “Let’s get through the summer, see how those months play out and see if we don’t start to see some sort of trend.”

If gasoline prices remain high, Texas could see gas tax collections stay flat or decline slightly for the state’s 2008 fiscal year, he said. The last time that happened was 2006, when prices rose above $3 for an extended period.

There are obvious budgetary implications to this. Gas tax revenues contribute to education funding, for one thing, so a decline here will result in yet more pressure on school financing, which in turn would likely be another arrow in the quiver of those who favor expanded gambling. This will also be cited by toll-road proponents who insist that the gas tax is inadequate for Texas’ growing transportation needs. That argument would be a lot more convincing to me if we didn’t have the same tax rate as we did in 1992, something the tollers never seem to mention, but I guarantee this point will be raised. If this trend continues, keep an eye on the gamesmanship that will follow. There will be a lot riding in the next Lege on it.

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One Comment

  1. Patrick says:

    Aside from funding fights, one has to wonder what this will do to the sloooow progress of commuter rail in Houston.