The Transit Working Group (TWG), a CAMPO committee engaged in planning several new passenger rail lines for Austin, revealed part of its financing plan last week. Most of the new taxes fall squarely on the backs of people who own or drive cars in Central Texas.
We learned last year that drivers who use the proposed MoPac Toll lanes will be forced to contribute a portion of their tolls to subsidize construction of train lines. The TWG now proposes taxes for driving on any road (at least in Travis and Williamson counties.) This would come in the form of an “emission tax” charged with annual vehicle inspections. There would also be a vehicle-miles-traveled tax due at inspection time.
Even if you leave your car parked in your garage you would have to pay a mobility tax with your annual registration. A new tax would also be levied on parking lots. It takes a lot of taxes to generate the $4 billion dollar cost of the plan. Part of the local sales taxes collected would also be dedicated to rail.
If looting the sales tax leaves insufficient money to fund public safety and general government, property taxes would have to go up. Most cities and counties in the CAMPO area would have to commit to gouging their residents for the new taxes. Many have indicated their intention to do so. The Elgin City Council has already voted to pay its share (and not a single citizen of Elgin knows it.)
Some of these taxes could be levied today. Others would require legislative approval and / or a vote of the citizens.
What could go wrong? The plan is heavily dependent on having another 1.5 million people moving into the area. (Yikes, they want to Houstonize Austin!) The plan is also dependent on a bankrupt federal government chipping in umpteen billion more dollars. (The local $4 billion would only pay for a fraction of the operations and maintenance cost of the trains.)
Read more here, but keep in mind that we have already spent $325 million for the “$60 million” dollar Red Line and a couple hundred million more has been or soon will be spent just planning and preparing for the transit dream.