Reports

Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Who Pays for the Road

Many Americans believe – erroneously – that the money they pay in gasoline taxes and other “user fees” covers the cost of building and maintaining our streets and highways. In fact, local roads and bridges are almost always paid for through local property taxes, while the share of the nation’s highway construction and repair bill paid by gas taxes has been dwindling over time. Since 2008, the federal government has diverted $52 billion in general tax revenue to the Highway Trust Fund – more than the nation has spent to subsidize Amtrak in its entire 42-year history. At the same time, state governments increasingly tap general tax revenue for highways. 

Report | TexPIRG Education Fund

Open for Business

Government transparency is a vital part of an inclusive and well-functioning democracy, especially when it comes to how our tax dollars are spent. At all levels – federal, state, and local –governments spending and revenue collection should serve the public benefit. Therefore, it is our right to have the necessary access to information that allows us to be knowledgeable citizens, voters, and participants in our government. This includes information about how our state is spending its’ money. Transparency of the public purse matters because it promotes fiscal responsibility, bolsters public confidence in government and deters corruption. This report uses public records requests to examine unreported information about Texas’ two largest economic develop subsidy programs: The Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF), which together dispensed almost a billion dollars in subsidies, mostly to private companies. It examines the degree of transparency at these programs and whether the information they provide online allows Texans to hold these programs accountable for their use of tax dollars. It also highlights specific opportunities available to increase transparency and accountability among economic development funds and incentives generally. 

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